Category: Music and Choir

News related to music within or outside of UCV

Blog: Donna Brown, Choir Director

Why I Do What I Do (or Musings of a Mu-U)

I think most members of the congregation would be surprised to find out how much time the choir spends learning and perfecting our music.  In fact, it is a little scary to do the math.

(from 2018) as an example.. On Thursday, Jan. 10, we started practising the Faure Requiem, which is the main piece for our April concert.  The Requiem is about 35 minutes long and we spent about 45 minutes working on the first of the seven movements. Between that rehearsal and our concert, we have approximately 18 rehearsals and we will spend between 30 and 60 minutes of each rehearsal working on the Faure. That’s a total of about 15 hours. If you count person-hours you will have to multiply by the 45 members of the choir. And that doesn’t count all of the time that each of us will spend working on the music independently!  

What takes so long? 

Well, first of all we have to learn the notes. In some places, the choir sings in unison (everyone on the same note, an octave apart for the men and women), but in many places there are at least four different notes and sometimes each part splits and there can be as many as eight notes. Then there is the rhythm and the language. The Requiem is in Latin, which is not a first language for anyone any more. Add to that the articulation (starting and ending together, or at least in the right place), the phrasing (musical sentences) and the dynamics (volume). There is lots to learn. And all of those things must be in place for us to make music – to express the emotion that is inherent in the music, to move beyond the technical.

But the big question is why?

Why do we put so much time and effort into something so ephemeral, so fleeting as a musical performance?  I have pondered that question often and there are many possible answers. First of all, it feels good when we get it right. The music is incredibly beautiful. It is also fun to do. The choir members enjoy each other’s company. And of course, we enjoy sharing our music with the congregation. But it is more than that. I believe that making music together is a spiritual experience. For me, it is one version of prayer or meditation and helps me to be a better person.  

I met an American minister during the UUMN conference that was held at UCV in 2002.  She explained to me that she and many others call themselves Bu-U’s because they are Unitarian Universalists whose primary spiritual path is Buddhism. Well, I guess I’m a Mu-U, a Unitarian whose primary spiritual path is music. And I would guess that many in the choir would feel the same way.

When I first started conducting the Chalice Choir in 1999, I struggled a bit in justifying how much time and energy I was spending on my work with the choir. I have organizational ability and I worried that I should be spending my time doing something more directly beneficial to others, like volunteering in the DTES. 

A very wise man – Rev. Phillip Hewett – helped me to find peace with my calling. He shared a quote with me, and although I’ve lost the exact words, the gist has stayed with me. Art and music exist to show the beauty that is possible in the world. And I would take it one step further – a choir helps us to experience the beauty that can be created by a group of people working together. That is why I do what I do.

I hope that you enjoy sharing that beauty with us on Sunday mornings and I invite you to join us in experiencing our upcoming concerts.

Donna Brown

Director, Chalice Choir

Unitarian Church of Vancouver

February 2014

 

Jason Shelton Singing Workshop Cancelled

I have just learned that Jason Shelton has had to cancel all of his fall obligations due to personal/family issues so the workshop planned for Sept. 27 – 29 has been cancelled.  I know that we are all disappointed and send our good wishes to Jason.  Thanks to everyone who registered – I am so pleased that so many of you wanted to come and sing with us!
Donna Brown, Director
Chalice Choir
Unitarian Church of Vancouver

New Singing Group starts Sunday, September 15

Do you like to sing? Would you like to sing once a month in a small group that doesn’t judge or perform? We will meet for the first time at 12:45 pm on September 15 and gather on the third Sunday every month until April. You’re invited!

My name’s Glenn Deefholts. I’ve been playing the piano and hosting singalongs for years. I’ll play while we sing, sharing my five copies of the Vancouver Ukulele Circle Songbook. Three people can gather around one book. There are songs from about 1910 to 2010 in various genres. The group is limited to a maximum of about 12 people, unless more songbooks are purchased.

We will sing after lunch, from about 12:30 to 1:15, taking turns choosing songs. No pre-registration is required; just come to the Lindsey-Priestley Room at 12:30 each third Sunday, after love soup and lunch. Questions? Contact Glenn

approved by Music Committee and Connect & Engage team

A Mass for Peace – Join North Shore Unitarians on May 11th

The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace was commissioned for the millennium by the U.K. Royal Armouries and had its premiere in London. The CD was released on September 10, 2001.

On May 11th, our church community will join many other singers from the wider community to make a strong, collective statement as to the folly of war. A choir of over 100 singers will perform this powerful and intensely moving work as a concert at Highlands United Church.

The human longing for peace is a visceral presence in this mass, as each movement adds to the larger story of war’s devastating impact. The various texts, as well as the music itself, embrace time periods from the first millennium B.C. to modern times, incorporating the poetic beauty of Islamic, Hindu, and Christian cultures.

ALISON NIXON, MUSIC DIRECTOR

Alison was appointed Music Director in September 2003. She conducts several other choral groups in the area including the Douglas College Choral Society, Note Bene Women’s Choir and SummerChor.

Alison is an accomplished violinist and has performed with orchestras in Britain, Switzerland and Vancouver. She is responsible for the church’s music program, which includes a 40-member adult choir, classical ensemble, folk choir and children’s choir. Alison also coordinates the musical component of the weekly Sunday services.

 

Chalice Choir in Bellingham

Notes by Leslie Hill, Pictures by Keith Wilkinson

On Sunday, February 24, 2019, Choir Director Donna Brown and twenty members of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver’s Chalice Choir met at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship at the invitation of BUF’s choir director, Kevin Allen-Schmid. During the service we sang ‘I Dreamed of Rain’ and with the BUF choir sang ‘One Day’, an anthem to peace. In the afternoon we attended an Interfaith Coalition Music Festival. We joined choirs from eleven other faith communities, from Jewish to Catholic, Methodist to Muslim. The UCV Chalice Choir’s reprise of ‘I Dreamed of Rain’ was sandwiched between singers from the Unity Spiritual Center and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The Interfaith Coalition Music Festival was raising money to help house the homeless in Bellingham. After every group had sung, we had a rousing sing-along with the audience, a brief and stirring address by Rev. Seth Thomas of St. James Presbyterian Church and concluded with a grand massed choir plus audience finale of ‘One Day’, featuring solos in Hebrew and Arabic.

It was an inspiring musical day and with any luck the UCV congregation will notice an additional spiritual shine on the faces of the Chalice Choir the next time we sing.

Massed choir and guests, First Congregational Church, Bellingham, WA

Chalice Choir on deck

Market Green, Fairhaven, WA

Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship Sanctuary

“It’s happening @ BUF”

How Sweet the Singing – Twenty Years with Donna Brown

“The choir is singing this Sunday? Oh good, I’ll be there for sure.”

You hear this often enough to appreciate that for many people, music is a vital part of any Sunday Service. In the Unitarian Church of Vancouver the choir sings two Sundays a month, on average, although it practises every week. And the face of the choir is the inimitable Donna Brown, currently celebrating her twentieth year as Director of UCV’s Chalice Choir.

Donna eased into the choir a few years after she joined the church in 1989. The previous director, Sallie Novinger, encouraged her to join as a soprano. Whenever Sallie was ill she asked Donna to direct and when she decided to retire, she suggested Donna take over. The first few years were tumultuous, with many guest ministers, a huge range in the organization of services and a never-ending need to check, coordinate and adjust. Things settled down when Steven Epperson arrived; he, Donna and Elliott Dainow formed a seamless, cooperative team. She credits Rob Taylor, Connie Wigmore and the late Donna Cook, for their support in the early days. Gavin Grandish and Nicola Hamilton fill in whenever Donna can’t be there.

Donna still quotes her mentor, Harold Brown, when the choir struggles to master a piece: ‘Perfection is an abstraction, one we must strive to reach though it will always be beyond our grasp.’

Donna’s patience in dealing with forty or so Unitarians, not unlike herding cats, has been honed by twenty-five years as an elementary school teacher. She remains pleasant and smiling even as she pushes singers to be better. Her determination to keep trained and talented section leads enables the rank and file members to ‘sing up’ a level so the choir can work on music that would otherwise be too difficult for many. As concert dates approach, she may have sleepless nights but she never panics. She will listen to everyone once and then make hard decisions when necessary. Although she never singles anyone out for blame, her bionic hearing for faulty timing and sagging pitch means the choir improves year by year. If the abstract of perfection is occasionally too far out of reach, Donna changes the program.

Over the last twenty years, the choir has performed a wide range of pieces at its two annual concerts. Proceeds from concerts (and choir-run church lunches in lean years) have funded the music library. Donna has a passion for requiems but the music varies from Bach, Rutter, Faure and Stravinsky to medleys from Queen, Gershwin, Village People and West Side Story. The choir has sung for the wedding of choir member Catherine Ponsford and the funerals of Harold Brown and Phillip Hewett. Last year at the Vancouver Push Festival, the choir even sang in the role of Community Choir for the play, ‘The Events’ starring UCV’s own Douglas Ennenberg. This past February Donna took the choir across the border to sing at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship service and at an interfaith concert to raise money for housing the homeless in the Bellingham area.

This year’s spring concert is titled ‘Donna’s Favourites’, pieces culled from her twenty years as Chalice Choir director. Mark your calendars, Sunday May 5 at 7:30. Come celebrate her stellar career with the choir here at UCV.

Choir Advent Concerts 1999-2018

Here are the major works sung by the Chalice Choir over the past 20 years.

Chalice Choir Advent Concert Featured Major Works

1999 J.S. Bach Cantata #140:  Wachet Auf

2000 Britten  Ceremony of Carols

2001 J.S. Bach  Christmas Oratorio, Part 1

2002 Haydn  Missa Sancti Nicolai

2003 Dvorak  Mass in D

2004 J.S. Bach  Christmas Oratorio, Part 2

2005 Poulenc  Gloria

2006 Mozart  Vespers K.339

2007 Handel  Coronation Anthems

2008 Vivaldi  Gloria

2009 J.S. Bach  Magnificat

2010 Schubert  Mass #6 in Eb

2011 Vivaldi  Magnificat 710a

2012 J.S. Bach  Cantata #63:  Christet, ätzet diesen Tag

2013 Britten  Ceremony of Carols

2014 Collection of Kyries (Josquin, Bach, Mozart, Dvorak, Stokes)

2015 Dvorak  Mass in D

2016 J.S. Bach  Cantata #140:  Wachet Auf

2017 Gounod  St. Cecilia Mass

2018  Gjeilo  Dark Night of the Soul & Luminous Night of the Soul

North Shore Unitarians – Amahl and the Night Visitors

The North Shore Unitarian Church has sent along this invitation.

Amahl and the Night Visitors” is a truly magical one-hour opera for all ages by Gian Carlo Menotti which tells the story of a young shepherd boy with wonderful imagination who experiences the magic of Christmas in a life-changing way.  It includes a heartwarming story, comedy, and beautiful music. 

The cast includes NSUC congregation members and a young singer from Bowen Island as Amahl.

We’re offering two performances in our Sanctuary: 2 pm on Saturday, Dec. 15th and 3 pm on Sunday, Dec. 16th.  Adult tickets are $20 if purchased ahead of time, or $25 at the door. Children are free, but please bring a pair of mitts, or socks, or even a gently used sleeping bag for the downtown shelters.

All proceeds go to the North Shore Unitarian Church.

Choir Sings Gjeilo – Plus Lots More

Here’s some background on the choir concert. This year, the Chalice Choir’s Advent Concert features two pieces by the young (40) Norwegian-born composer Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo). Dark Night of the Soul and Luminous Night of the Soul are both based on poetry by St. John of the Cross, a sixteenth century Spanish mystic, a contemporary of Teresa of Avila. St. John is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. These exquisitely layered pieces involve both piano and string accompaniment. They have been a delight to learn and we look forward to sharing them with you.

But that is not all we have for you. Anne Duranceau and Edgar Bridwell, along with a few of their friends, will present some lovely string music. The ensemble and the choir have prepared several beautiful songs and Lyndon Ladeur, our tenor lead, will dazzle you with an aria from his upcoming performance in Opera Mariposa’s production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte (Nov 30, Dec, 1, 7, 8 at Marpole United.)

After our annual singalong, you will be invited to join us for a reception in Hewett Centre.

Want a preview? You can listen to Dark Night of the Soul and Luminous Night of the Soul here:

An evening to warm your heart and jump-start your holiday spirit. Please join us!

Tickets: $20 (or pay what you can) available at the door.

Bios below

Lyndon Ladeurtenor | Ferrando

Lyndon Ladeur’s favourite roles to date include Marco in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers and Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. His major concert repertoire as a soloist consists of Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Gounod’s Messe solennelle en l’honneur de Sainte-Cécile. He made his international debut as part of the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival to a sold-out crowd at the Royal Hall in Harrogate, UK where he performed Marco in The Gondoliers. For this portrayal he was named the winner of the Best Male Vocalist award, as well as being nominated for Best Male Actor. He was given a 2018 Vancouver Academy of Music Emerging Artist Grant to contribute to this experience. He is also the reigning winner of both the Senior Classical Voice and Vocal Variety competitions at the BC Provincial Performing Arts Festival. After that, Lyndon was named a winner of the BC Provincial Concerto Competition.

dgar Bridwell was born in Illinois but has lived in BC and Montreal most of his life. He started violin when he was five years old. He later played, recorded and toured internationally with several Swing and Rockabilly bands, but came back to classical music a few years ago.

nne Duranceau was born in Montreal but lived mostly in Quebec City. After a career as a classically-trained dancer, she studied the contrabass at Laval University and obtained her Master’s Degree in Music at the University of Arizona, also travelling to participate in many workshops and festivals where she had the opportunity to work with several masters of international renown. She plays with several ensembles, among which Sinfonia, and the Klezmer group Mad Nomad.

We’re a Welcoming Home for Many Artists, Musicians and Creatives

For many years, UCV has been a welcoming home and refuge to a wide variety of artists, musicians, and creatives of all disciplines and backgrounds.

Our beautiful Sanctuary, with its wonderful architecture, ambiance, and acoustics, has become a favoured venue for local concerts, piano recitals, music festivals and plays. It has been the home of the Vancouver Kiwanis Music Festival for many years, and regularly hosts the Vivaldi Chamber Choir, Jubilate Vocal Ensemble, Vancouver Chinese Choir, West Coast Chamber Music, Highs and Lows Choir, and of course our own Chalice Choir. The Chor Leoni Men’s Choir and Elektra Women’s Choir even have their office spaces on the UCV campus!

Other regular rental clients of ours include the Pacific International Youth Music Society and the BC Registered Music Teachers’ Association, among many others.

Elaine Joe at our grand piano playing for the Highs and Lows choir who practise every week in our sanctuary.

Each month, our Arts Committee curates a new exhibition in our Sanctuary and Fireside Room, giving local artists the opportunity to have their work seen by hundreds if not thousands of congregants and visitors.

The Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild meets in the Hewett Hall monthly, and provides its members an opportunity to have a ‘show and tell’ of their latest creations.

Another UCV tenant, the Multifaith Action Society, produces a Multifaith Calendar each year that features beautiful community-sourced artwork from around the world as a means of promoting interfaith harmony and cross-cultural dialogue. Over 30,000 copies of the calendar are distributed across North America and beyond annually.

We have hosted book launches and readings from a number of renowned authors, and the UCV campus’ many unique and storied spaces have also been featured in a wide variety of television shows, movies, and amateur films. Most recently, the Hewett Hall and Fireside Room were transformed into courtroom sets for the Johnny Depp film Richard Says Goodbye.

Marcus Hynes is the person to contact about booking space at the Unitarian Centre.

We are proud of UCV’s commitment to and embodiment of the arts and look forward to many more years of serving Vancouver’s creative community!

To inquire about booking a space for your creative event, please contact Marcus at 604-261-7204, extension 0, or by email.