Written by A.L. Adams
It’s been 30 years since Elektra Women’s Choir was founded, and 20 since they traveled to Sydney, Australia for the World Symposium on Choral Music. Now the Vancouver-based group is ready to perform an encore—this time in Barcelona. In July 2017, Elektra will fly to Spain, joining more than 3,000 conductors, singers, and other choir professionals from around the world for a weeklong series of lectures, concerts, masterclasses, and more.
This World Symposium will be very different from their last, says Co-founding Artistic Director Morna Edmundson—mostly thanks to new technology: “In 1996, the participating choirs were all a surprise to each other, but now that the internet has spun all of these great threads of connection in the choral world, we anticipate hearing groups live that we’ve already heard on a recording or seen on YouTube.”
Another update is the World Symposium’s politically portent 2017 theme, The Colours of Peace, which frankly acknowledges that our world has been at war, proposing the choir as the ultimate instrument of peace: Differences in culture, political ideology, race, and language disappear when people sing together.
That may be true to a point, but Elektra does uphold a distinct character—that of the Canadian woman—in each artistic decision they make. “In the choir world,” Morna explains, “children’s choirs sing in the same voices (soprano and alto) as women’s choirs. That makes it that much more important to draw a distinction between pieces that are appropriate for children and those that express more ‘adult’ ideas.” As the group turns 30, they’re curating their repertoire more intentionally than ever toward maturity and a nuanced view of emotion. They even have a subtle song about depression. “There’s kind of a trend in choral music to be a little bit over-sentimental,” Morna admits.
I don’t like singing pieces that are structured like Hollywood movies, with one predesignated tearjerker moment. I want us to speak to people on an emotional level, but not a trivial level, and I don’t want to anticipate how they’re going to feel.
No one poeticizes and articulates the finer points of the human condition better than Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell—so it’s no wonder Elektra’s Kate MacColl has added a fresh choral adaptation of The Circle Game to the group’s Barcelona program, which also includes new work by Vancouver-based composer Kathleen Allan. Next summer, when Elektra regales Barcelona with a song about “going round and round in the circle game,” the metaphor will take on extra meaning, encompassing their travels around the world.
Celebrate Elektra’s 30th Anniversary Gala Concert. Tickets here.
Morna Edmundson is one of Canada’s best-known choral conductors with a strong reputation for excellence. In 1987, she co-founded Elektra Women’s Choir with Diane Loomer, a treasured partnership that lasted 22 years. In 2009, Morna became Elektra’s sole Artistic Director, continuing the choir’s strong leadership role in concert presentation, commissioning, recording, and mentorship.