SLAVA cham­ber choir re­turn­ing to its roots

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - By Gordon Lam­bie

This com­ing Sun­day, Septem­ber 17, the SLAVA Cham­ber Choir will be bring­ing “Trea­sures of Slavic Chant” to the St-sébastien-de-fron­tenac Church just north of Lac Mé­gan­tic. The choir, which fo­cuses on mu­sic from Rus­sia and other coun­tries with Slavic lan­guages, dates back to 2013 when the group’s founder, Maria Ban­drauk, was in­spired by her work as a Rus­sian lan­guage coach for the choir at the Univer­sity of Sher­brooke.

“We were singing Prince Igor opera ex­cerpts for the twen­ti­eth an­niver­sary of the univer­sity of Sher­brooke choir and since I am of Rus­sian her­itage I was asked to be the lin­guis­tic coach,” Ban­drauk said. “Dur­ing the re­hearsals I was called upon of­ten. The stu­dents no­ticed that and they were in­trigued.”

The choir founder said that she was ap­proached by sev­eral voice stu­dents af­ter­ward, each of whom said that they would like to sing more Rus­sian mu­sic.

“Rus­sian mu­sic has this very univer­sal ap­peal,” Ban­drauk said, adding that the lan­guage is the fifth most im­por­tant lan­guage for those study­ing clas­si­cal vo­cal reper­toire. “It is very melodic; it is very sen­ti­men­tal, of­ten melan­choly and nos­tal­gic.”

In­spired by that in­ter­est and draw­ing on her own back­ground singing tra­di­tional sa­cred mu­sic and folk mu­sic in Rus­sian, Ban­drauk went to work as­sem­bling the group that be­came the SLAVA Cham­ber Choir from a choice group of U de S and Bishop’s Univer­sity stu­dents.

“I was ready for a choir and this was an in­cen­tive,” she said, ex­plain­ing that the group had its first per­for­mance, an Easter con­cert, in North Hat­ley in 2013.

Natalie Dem­mon, now an up­per-level mu­sic and the­atre stu­dent at Bishop’s Univer­sity, was ap­proached about join­ing the choir in her fresh­man year.

“I was ap­proached as a first year stu­dent at Bishop’s with the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in (Ban­drauk’s) choir,” said Dem­mon, a na­tive of Al­berta. “I had never sung Rus­sian. I did a lit­tle bit of Rus­sian his­tory pas­sively in high school and I love Rus­sian mu­sic it­self as a mu­sic stu­dent but it’s a very dif­fer­ent sound and a very in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to be a part of a choir for it.”

The singer said that it was quite a flat­ter­ing and sur­pris­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for her to be ap­proached so soon af­ter com­ing to the area.

“I had only just be­gun and was as­signed to Gail Des­marais as my voice teacher,” Dem­mon said. “There’s this idea that peo­ple who study with Gail don’t just goof around.”

Dem­mon ex­plained that while she was not the first stu­dent to be ap­proached, the rep­u­ta­tion of Rich­mond­based Des­marais was enough to prompt Ban­drauk to reach out with­out ever hav­ing heard her sing.

“I took the ex­pe­ri­ence very se­ri­ously,” the stu­dent said.

Dem­mon clar­i­fied that she has not been con­sis­tently in­volved with SLAVA since 2013, as the re­quire­ments of her school­ing took prece­dence over the group. Hav­ing re­turned to the choir this past year, how­ever, the singer said that the con­cert Sun­day is a bit of an ex­cit­ing look back at the be­gin­ning for her.

“I had orig­i­nally sung a con­cert back in 2013 at Lac Mé­gan­tic,” Dem­mon shared, “that one was done with the pro­ceeds go­ing to the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims of Lac Mé­gan­tic.”

That con­cert, which also took place in the St-sébastien-de-fron­tenac Church, raised $4,000 thanks to a sold-out au­di­ence.

The up­com­ing con­cert is also a fundraiser, al­though this time the pro­ceeds will go to­ward the up­keep of the church it­self. Look­ing to the pro­gram­ming, Dem­mon said that it pro­vides a mix of sa­cred and folk mu­sic in two halves. Where the choir of roughly 20 mem­bers will sing un­ac­com­pa­nied in the first half, they will be joined by vir­tu­oso folk ac­cor­dion­ist Vladimir Si­dorov for the folk sec­tion.

“It just adds a whole other vibe,” she said, call­ing the folk half, “very fes­tive.”

“Ev­ery one of the singers will have a solo mo­ment,” Ban­drauk said, not­ing that she care­fully picked each voice in the group and likes to see the var­i­ous tal­ents high­lighted in per­for­mances.

Since its found­ing the SLAVA Cham­ber Choir has per­formed eight con­certs for over 3,000 peo­ple across Que­bec and in Ot­tawa. Al­though Ban­drauk main­tains a close con­nec­tion to the group and con­tin­ues to pro­vide vo­cal coach­ing, the choir has been un­der the di­rec­tion of a pro­fes­sional con­duc­tor, Eun Jung Park, since Septem­ber of 2016.

“Trea­sures of Slavic Chant,” will be tak­ing place at the St-sébastien-de-fron­tenac Church at 280 Rue de la Fabrique in Saint-sébastien-de-fron­tenac, Québec on Sun­day, Septem­ber 17, start­ing at 2 p.m. More in­for­ma­tion about the con­cert is avail­able by call­ing 819-569-7315, 819-652-2811, or by email­ing con­certst-se­bastien@videotron.ca.

COUR­TESY

The SLAVA cham­ber choir.

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