Aug. 11, 2004 - Issue #460: The Fringe
Choir in the belly
Pro Coro plans ambitious seven-concert season for 2004/2005
For a cultural insitiution, offering more rather than less is risky business, especially when competition for audiences is strong. Yet here’s Pro Coro Canada, offering seven concerts for its 2004/2005 season.
Richard Sparks, artistic director for Pro Coro, says there are several advantages to increasing the number of concerts per year. First, he says, it allows singers to do more, and he claims the ensemble improves faster because of extra time together. There’s more room for flexibility in the programming and to bring in guest conductors, he adds.
This year’s guests are old friends. Anders Eby— “one of the best Swedish conductors,” claims Sparks—is a former director of Pro Coro, who will be reunited with the choir for The Swedish Connection on November 14. Venezuelan conductor Maria Guinand, who won hearts with her Latin Explosion two years ago, will be raising more sparks in a Latin Fiesta on January 30.
“Guest conductors bring new ideas and fresh perspectives and revitalize any choir,” says Sparks. Choosing those with international reputations also spreads the name Pro Coro Canada around the world. He has many names on his list, but two per season is his goal.
Balancing perennial favourites with new material and crossover styles keeps audiences interested. “We can’t survive unless people really want to come to our programs,” says Sparks. Consider The Lighter Side of Pro Coro, booked for February 17. The concert also features the Victoria Jazz Choir, as well as local saxophone legend P. J. Perry. Trent Worthington, composer and arranger, regular chorister and assistant conductor is on the podium.
This season’s popular Pro Coro Christmas will fall on December 12, featuring hand-bell ringers and classical guitarist Caesar Zmyslowski, as well as Jeremy Spurgeon playing the Davis Concert Organ. On Good Friday, March 25, Pro Coro will sing Mozart’s Requiem, an integral part of Easter to many Edmontonians.
The season opener is Haydn’s Mass in Time of War, on October 3. Collaborating with the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies at the University of Alberta, Pro Coro will be doing all six late Haydn masses over the next few seasons. The end of the season promises to be equally impressive, complementing the raucous Carmina Burana, by Karl Orff, with Stravinsky’s Les Noches. Accompaniment for the April 24 concert is four pianos and four percussionists.
“Choral singing is [also] a social, corporate activity,” says Sparks. Part of his responsibility is to discourage cliques, as the sense of community in the whole group is very important. In two weeks a short choir retreat begins the new season. The word “retreat” is deceptive, since it involves concentrated work and not relaxation, but it gives the ensemble and especially new members a head start on the material. Though a few faces have changed, stable membership is an indication of the choir’s success as an ensemble. V
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