Youth choir to mark 10 years with concert after success at world choral symposium
Last month, the Vancouver Youth Choir represented Canada at the World Symposium of Choral Music in Istanbul. The choir performed a program that drew on Canadian folk, Indigenous chants, and music from the cultures of some the singers.
“After we performed, we heard from people just how different our program was from those of the other choirs,” said Carrie Tennant, founder and artistic director of the choir.
“It was very eclectic and diverse. The other comment that we kept getting was how connected the choir was to each other and to me, and how connected they felt as an audience member to the experience emotionally as well.”
This was the VYC's first time applying to perform at the event. Since forming in 2013, the choir has toured Europe, the U.S., and Canada. Tennant recently added another feather to her cap — as guest conductor at Carnegie Hall. The April 1 concert, Canada at Carnegie, featured 250 singers, including 66 from YVC.
The upcoming Orpheum concert celebrates the choir's 10th year.
Tennant started VYC because she saw a need for a financially accessible opportunity for young singers to perform material outside of the Western canon.
“I love Monteverdi and Mendelssohn, and we do a lot of that as well. But I wanted to have a program where young singers could sing at a really high level, but where there was a multitude of voices that were respected and valued in terms of culture, and genre and traditions. So we do a very diverse repertoire, and that's one of the hallmarks of VYC. I also wanted something that was financially accessible.”
There are 72 people in the VYC, ranging in age from five to 25. In the Vancouver Youth Choir program's seven choirs, more than 400 young people participate and 25 per cent receive a financial subsidy. The VYC was one of only two youth choirs to perform at the international symposium, which is aimed at conductors and composers and takes place every four years in a different country. Ten choirs came from Georgia, Sweden, Taiwan, the Basque region of Spain, North Africa and Indonesia.
Along with the traditional tunes and work by contemporary Canadian choral composers, including three pieces by Indigenous composers, Tennant sneaked in a couple of songs by songwriters from the pop world. Apple Tree, by Norwegian singer Aurora, made the cut, arranged by Vancouver composer, Katerina Gimon, as did Here Comes the River by French-Canadian songwriter Patrick Watson.
The Aurora tune “kind of blew the roof off of the room,” said Tennant, who once recorded and performed with local indie-pop group the Salteens.
The choir closed with the Watson song, with some help from local choreographer Leslie Telford.
“She helped us show with our bodies how being connected to community is a way to overcome struggle.”
The VYC singers were as much fans as participants, and they attended every concert.
“These are the best choirs in the world, and for us to watch those choirs live was amazing. Their programs, their precision and level of artistry, are incredible. It was a profound experience.”
For the 10th-anniversary concert, the choir will perform “a big chunk” of the program it prepared for the symposium.