Q: What do choral canaries do when you open their cages?

A: Fly, of course!

Last month we asked people who are busy with choirs from September to June what they do to recharge their batteries during the summer months. Here's a cross section of responses!

Ryan Knowles, chorister

St. Michaels' Choir School

The first thing I intend to do is to hang out with my friends, now that I finally have a life that isn't completely consumed by choral duties. People may not realize this, but choristers are actually a pretty normal bunch of kids, despite our obvious musical talents. Even though we may seem at home on stage or by the piano, we are just as at home on the couch with a bag of chips and a bunch of friends.

All the time that is not spent chilling out with my friends will be occupied by writing. I enjoy writing poems, short stories, and the occasional piece of music. I'm no Beethoven, but I think that I am an accomplished composer, lyricist, and poet, and I'd like to maintain this reputation, if only to myself!

Most of the summer, however, will be spent in Switzerland with my family. We have spent lots of time touring around Ontario, Quebec, and some of the neighboring states, but we are finally going across the Atlantic, onto new lands and new adventures. Although I do enjoy singing and performing, I'm happy that I am, for the summer at least, off the hook.

Kathy Tyers, chorister

Milton Choristers

My choir the Milton Choristers, just had their final season concert in June. I also belong to the Milton Concert Band who are putting on summer concerts in the park on Thursday evenings until the end of July.

As if that weren't enough to keep me busy, I also signed up for the Choirs Ontario Adult Vocal camp that takes place in July in Aurora. Then I follow that up with a week at Lakefield with CAMMAC. I strongly recommend CAMMAC to anyone with a musical interest, be it vocal or instrumental. I am also participating as a member of the Brott Summer Festival choir which is performing Carmina Burana August 20.

Then I actually might take a week or two of vacation. (But maybe not - got to get ready for the next season you know). Oh, by the way, I also fit in practice sessions with a flute ensemble I started and just plain jamming with friends on an occasional basis. You can never get enough music!

Dallas Bergen, Artistic Director and Conductor

Univox Choir, Harbourfront Chorus

I'll have a healthy balance of work, play and work-related-play this summer. In July Univox will embark on our first tour, attending the Loto-Québec World Choral Festival and competition in Laval. Univox was one of 32 choirs selected to participate in this grand festival which takes place during alternate years of Podium (the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors' conference). We look forward to five days with others who share our love for choral music.

In early August I'll attend the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network conference in Portland, Oregon. Rodney Eichenberger will be the chorus master and will present conducting workshops. Some vacation time with my wife follows: a family reunion in BC and visiting my family in Saskatchewan before returning to Toronto. The rest of August will be full of meetings to plan the coming church year at First Unitarian and the choir season for Univox and the Harbourfront Chorus.

Ann Cooper Gay, Artistic Director

Canadian Children's Opera Company

After four operas for the Canadian Children's Opera Company (the CCOC's A Dickens of a Christmas, the COC's La Bohème and A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Soundstreams / Luminato's The Children's Crusade), multiple concerts, and school visits, I am ready to head south to Texas for some R & R!

We'll visit with relatives and reconnect with family from Pennsylvania-Texas-California-British Columbia. I intend to unwind by listening to Kate Royal, reading a ton of books, eating my fill of Mexican food and basking in the sun along the Gulf Coast beaches. I'll also be doing some research on the next CCOC event: Winter Celebrations Across the Ages, involving singing, dancing, instrumental groups, poetry and drama. It's a pageant-like event that will include members of all five CCOC divisions, outreach-programme participants and some special guests.

Ron Greidanus, Artistic Director, Conductor.

Georgetown Bach Chorale

I lead a Baroque chamber choir and orchestra, and keep up a concerto repertoire of 30 piano concerti.

I live in downtown Georgetown on six acres filled with marvellous nature. It feels like the middle of the Rockies! In my house I host concerts through the year, including the summer: I have two harpsichords, a Baroque organ and two grand pianos. The idea of presenting house-concerts was fostered from my Amsterdam student days when I frequently attended salons. There's nothing comparable to sitting in a private home where audience-members feel like they are making the music!

In the summer I also work on farms throughout Halton Hills lifting hay bales to help keep me in shape for those athletic Rachmaninoff concerti! Born and raised on a cow farm I vowed at 22 I would never lift another bale again. Two years ago I decided that physical labour was good for the brain and the body, and so back to nature I went. Everybody asks me, "Is it not bad for your hands?" My response: "Hands are made to be used, so use them."

I love the colours of the summer. It's very inspiring to see the vibrant colours of yellow, blue and green while working on a hay wagon. I often have Scriabin Piano Sonatas sounding through my head as I throw these bales. My advice to the world, never say never!

A dear friend who works in theatre was coming from out of town. Discussing this much-anticipated visit over email, she commented that spending one of our few precious evenings at the theatre might be “a bit of a busman’s holiday”.

Intrigued, I had to know where this expression came from. It seems that back in the days of horse-driven omnibuses, drivers often grew very attached to their particular team of horses. During their days off, many would disguise themselves as regular passengers in order to keep a critical eye on the relief drivers.

Musical “busman’s holidays” seem to be the norm for many musical folk – either because they are performing at festivals or have signed up for master classes and workshops, or because they seek out festivals where they can hear music instead of rehearsing and performing it. Here’s another version: at least a couple of string players I know listen only to hard-core metal or classic rock tunes while they car-pool from summer gig to summer gig.

Read more: Birds on the Buses?

Would you like to swing on a star,
carry moonbeams home in a jar,
and be better off than you are....

“Embracing” is a word that can be used two ways. Interesting how either way it applies to making music, and particularly to choral singing.

Choral music is "embracing": like a hug that is big enough for as many as many need one. Simple folk melodies and great majestic scores all invite us to be "in the music" as choristers or as audience. This embrace can transcend all kinds potential barriers: age, gender, race, and other diverse but less visible socio-economic walls in our complicated lives.

We are "embracing music", when we sing with others. With our breathing unified, and often our hearts on our sleeves, we wrap a collective voice around a piece of music and hold it tight, and by extension, around one another. It's an act of love.

The Timothy Eaton Memorial Church Choir School "Sing Out!" (May 8)

Read more: Embracing Music

For a number of different reasons, I find myself sitting here preoccupied with the old question “How many angels can dance on the point of a needle?” The origins of the question are nearly as debatable as the various answers to it. What delights me is that the debate assumes that there are angels. And, equally delightful, that they can dance!

What got me thinking about this? One thing was that someone asked me “How many potential choristers will be reading WholeNote’s May Canary Pages?” I found myself trying to come up with a total, based on last year’s Canary Pages. How many choirs? How many singers already in each? So, that’s about 12,000. But what about lapsed choristers ready to take the plunge again? And what if each of them has just one friend, who had never been in a choir, but inspired by association finds themselves suddenly seized by a secret powerful longing… .

Read more: Paeons and needles

Gonna rise, gonna rise up singing

Gonna raise the bucket from down in the well

And I feel like I’m just beginning

Cause I made that choice, to raise that voice

And that bucket’s gonna rise, rise up singing

(Quaker, traditional)

Reasons for singing are probably as many as all the colours in all the windows of every windowed place of worship in the world, real or imagined. 16_watoto_choir_ colour

And at the same time, maybe there is after all, only one fundamental reason: to express a passion that cannot be conveyed so well in any other way. Shared passion is one of those things that keeps us feel fully alive, and fully human.

From start to finish the March listings illustrate this diversity within a unified purpose – to “rise up singing” as a way of sharing fear, hope, despair and joy. As the days begin to get a little longer perhaps you will feel more like going out to hear some inspiring choral music, so remember to be”alive” in the month which precedes traditional celebrations of rebirth and harbingers of spring in the natural world.

Read more: The Passionate Voice
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