Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

Singers soar in Across the Universe

As a community choir that passed its 50-year milestone last year, Salt Spring Singers members have explored countless themes in their biannual concerts.

A choir’s artistic director is generally responsible for coming up with concert program concepts, but this time Don Conley asked his members what themes they would like to consider. That’s when someone suggested “outer space or the universe,” he said, and people “started shouting out songs they knew of with space in the theme.”

It ended up providing a rich galaxy of musical choices, which audiences will hear at this weekend’s two concerts called Across the Universe at All Saints by-the-Sea church. The first is on Saturday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday afternoon show beginning at 2:30 p.m.

James Yi is the choir’s accompanist.

Conley said the first part of the concert features classical works, such as Creation’s Hymn by Beethoven and Haydn’s The Heavens are Telling from The Creation oratorio.

“Both of them are big numbers. You get that full, powerful choral sound,” he said.

Music by renowned contemporary composers includes A Flight Song by Kim André Arnesen, which is based on a beautiful poem about coming of age and going out into the world and “flying.” The metaphor is applicable to just about anything, said Conley.

Across the Vast, Eternal Sky, about the phoenix rising myth, comes from choral-world superstar composer Ola Gjeilo, and Walking in the Air is a magical piece from an animated British film called The Snowman.

The Robert Frost poem Choose Something Like a Star set to music by Randall Thompson is another beautiful and cinematic song on the program.

The concert’s second half enters a contemporary orbit with Elton John’s Rocket Man, Across the Universe by the Beatles, Fly Me to the Moon — the jazz standard made famous by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie — and From a Distance, which was a Bette Midler hit in 1990. Six of the choir’s singers will perform the poignant Underneath the Stars by Kate Rusby, which was hugely popular for Grammy-nominated British ensemble VOCES8.

Because humour is pretty much a constant in Salt Spring Singers concerts (and rehearsals), choir member Jean Brouard will sing The Galaxy Song from Monty Python.

The concert’s closing number is an absolutely on-theme classic — take a guess at what it will be and you might be right!

Conley said his choir is growing in numbers again after the reducing impacts of the Covid pandemic, and the 40-plus group has embraced the Across the Universe repertoire.

“They really like the program so they are singing it enthusiastically.”

Tickets for the show are available through the ArtSpring box office, or at the All Saints door, if still available.

While the choir’s membership has grown in the past year, Conley would like to see even more islanders enjoy the benefits of group singing, so a free workshop encouraging people to try it out, which will also be valuable to experienced singers, is being offered next month.

Eva Bostrand, a well-known vocalist, teacher and choral director from Edmonton, will lead the June 21-23 event at All Saints. More details will be available soon.

Conley said hosting educational and outreach events like the Bostrand workshop are one of the Singers’ purposes.

“Part of our mandate is to reach out to the community and provide education about choral singing and the benefits of it,” he said.

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