When Jenn Forsland, the director of Island Voices Chamber Choir, was considering music to open the choir’s 21st season, she began to see common themes in the music she was listening to.
“I began to reflect on what gets us through the darker months of the year. As the days get shorter, we cozy up with loved ones, dream of brighter days, and curl up with a good book or a good friend by the fire, helping the shorter days to pass more enjoyably. With those images in mind, Music focused on the themes of love, light, and contemplation began to surface.”
The result will be two concerts, in Campbell River and Comox, featuring sixteen pieces of music in seven languages from as far away as Estonia, Brazil and South Africa, and as near as Vancouver. After a grand and memorable 20th anniversary season full of celebration, the choir is excited to move forward this year with more sophisticated, challenging and diverse repertoire. Seven new members will add to the excitement as they make their debut performance.
The Tudor piece which became the title of the concerts was written by Thomas Weelkes, a cathedral organist who actually spent most of his time at the tavern, composing light-hearted madrigals. In this piece, Weelkes suggests – with a wink and nudge and a “fa la la” — that we could “shorten winter’s sadness” by being more inclined to love.
In the same vein, a hot-blooded suitor in the traditional Brazilian song, “Muie Rendera”, tries to bargain with a pretty lacemaker: if she shows him how to weave, he’ll teach her the arts of love.
From love, the choir moves to the theme of light, including McCartney and Lennon’s “I’ll Follow the Sun”, the Provençal carol “Un Flambeau! Jeanette Isabelle”, and the traditional spiritual “Bright Morning Stars”.
Contemplation and insight are provided as well. “Let My Love Be Heard” by Jake Runestad speaks of loss and grief, and of the healing power of angels’ voices. In “Muusika”, contemporary Estonian composer Pärt Uusberg suggests the harmonies found in nature are what give us music in our hearts.
One of Director Forsland’s favourite pieces is “My Light”, a brand new piece by Vancouver composer Katerina Gimon. “The music begins tenderly like flickering fireflies in the night sky,” she says, “and builds throughout to a rousing finale, bathing the audience in sheer radiance.” The composer Gimon explained, “I chose a theme of self-discovery and individuality, of finding our inner light, incorporating moments of individuality and self-expression through pitched recitations, glissandos, and fun and bright vocal timbres.” This piece was first performed in Vancouver this past spring, and Island Voices are very proud to present the Vancouver Island premiere.
“To Shorten Winter’s Sadness” will be presented twice, on Friday, November 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Campbell River United Church (425 Pinecrest Rd) and on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Comox United Church (250 Beach Dr)
Tickets are $20 (students are free when accompanied by an adult), and can be purchased in Courtenay at Benjamin Moore House of Colour, in Comox at Blue Heron Books, and in Campbell River at The Music Plant. For more info, call 250-203-0471 (Campbell River) or 250-898-4773 (Comox/Courtenay).