By Wendy Elliott
A tour of Europe this summer and expanding to include a new treble choir are just two of the exciting changes coming to the Annapolis Valley Honour Choir.
The choir is hoping Valley audiences will turn out on April 20 for a special concert at 7:30 p.m. in University Hall, Wolfville, when a gala concert will be held to celebrate choral singing in the county. Special guests will include the North Mountain Community Chorus, the Dukes of Kent and the Kings Chorale.
Honour choir conductor Heather Fraser calls it “our final fundraiser before we head to Europe in July.”
A strong year of music for the choir is culminating with a trip to Budapest, Vienna and Venice.
“We are super excited,” she added.
In February, the choir made an audition recording for the Podium Conference 2014 competition for amateur Canadian choirs.
Fraser said they hope to participate in concerts in Halifax during this event.
The final spring concert is set for May 25. The choir’s Christmas concert, which also featured the Kings Chorale, filled every seat at Wolfville Baptist Church.
The Annapolis Valley Honour Choir (AVHC) is an instructional music program, which emphasizes musical and vocal training through choral music. It’s aim, Fraser says, is to enrich the artistic lives of its members, their families and the community they serve.
“Singers receive a well-rounded choral education and the choir provides a powerful means for young choral musicians to express themselves.”
The new treble choir is being organized for youth in Grade 5 through 8 in the eastern end of the Valley, while the Kings Chorale Children's Chorus serves the other end of the region – the area west of Waterville. She says the two choirs support and partner together.
According to Fraser, rehearsals for the new choir will be held at Acadia University, starting in September.
The focus of this choir will be having fun, building friendships and introducing keen young singers to all that choral music can be, she said.
The repertoire will cover all styles and will be chosen especially for this age group, with musical and vocal lessons always front of mind, she added.
The Grade 8-12 honour choir will remain open for singers in the entire Valley area. The current SATB choir will be shifting membership up one grade, to Grades 8-12, except for boys with changed voices who are eligible earlier.
The AVHC rehearses at Horton High School and it currently has 62 members. Years ago, when the choir had school board support, it included between 70 and 80 young singers.
Auditions will be held later this spring, in late May or early June. Fraser said she is pleased that the new choir will be partner with Acadia University’s School of Music. Being used as a lab choir for music education students as part of their curriculum will benefit everyone, she believes.
“This way, we can incorporate younger singers into our program and teach them directly at the level they need to grow vocally and musically to be ready for the mixed choir with more advanced repertoire,” she said.
Music students at Acadia will gain valuable hands-on experience conducting, she noted.
Anniversary ahead Next year is the honour choir’s 25th anniversary. With directors Ross Thompson and Shelley Moore, the choir started as a program of the regional school board in 1988. “I first joined as a singer when I was 12, in 1992, and went on the first tour to England and Wales,” recalled Fraser.
She can certainly speak to the importance of such trips.
“These tours are fantastic experiences for our young people that open their eyes and minds to different cultures, languages and traditions by experiencing them first hand.”
Her first journey outside Nova Scotia in 1993, Fraser said, changed her view of the world and her place in it.
“That trip showed me the power of music as a universal language – joining voices from all over the world to share in a meaningful, collective experience and in the creation of something beautiful.”
Fraser graduated in piano performance from Acadia in 2001, the she took her B.Ed at McGill. She is currently conductor of both the Annapolis Valley Honour Choir and the new Lake Voices Honour Choir, which is part of the Dartmouth All-City Music Program.
She believes that the world desperately needs more choral music.
“If I can give these young people that experience, it will change their lives and the lives of those around them who share their thoughts and wishes and dreams,” she said.
Tickets for the April 20 concert are $15. They are available from choristers in all three choirs and at the door.