Westman Youth Choir: WYC welcomed conductors Marla Fontaine and John Wiens for the fall season. Their two choir camps were followed by a whirlwind tour to the communities of Melita, Deloraine, Killarney, Boissevain, Wawanesa, Souris, Reston, and Brandon.
The Virden and District Chorale and the Virden Collegiate Institute, under the direction of Michelle Chyzyk continue their unflagging surge of fabulous musicals. Last spring they polished off The Addams Family to great acclaim, and were selected the Rainbow Stage School Award recipient for 2018. The award included a cash prize of $1,000, as well as special recognition at Rainbow Stage’s opening night of "Beauty and the Beast" on Aug. 16. Read the Brandon Sun article here.
In November, audiences enjoyed a superb (and sold-out) Mamma Mia. Go to their Facebook page to see all the fabulous photos!
The choirs of Oak Lake are directed by their founder, Karyn Morrow-Penner, who is also the music specialist at Oak Lake Community School. Enjoy their bios:
Noteable Women: A love of music and singing is all the criteria that the Noteable Women need to sing in this choir. Founded in 2004, the choir consists of ladies ages 14 and up, with the majority falling in the middle of the age bracket. The roster has varied from 20 to 52 members.
The Heard is a choir for men who enjoy singing, regardless of musical background or experience. It was founded in 2009, and has grown from 13 to 23 members.
For both choirs, the ever-lengthening list of performance opportunities have included many local events such as church services, Remembrance Day Services, Christmas gatherings, fundraisers, festivals, the Souris Arts Council Concert Series, the Singers Helping Singers Concert in Brandon, and their annual seasonal concerts. Other collaborative events have included the former Sandhill Singers and Prairie Blend of Brandon. Their extensive travels have taken them to festivals in Edmonton, Moose Jaw, Flin Flon, and Halifax, where Noteable Women received a Gold Standard Award. The women have also received Gold Level standings at ChoralFest Manitoba, providing entry into the National Level Competition, and have collaborated with Winnipeg’s Women of Note, the U of M Women’s Chorus, and renowned composer, Stephen Hatfield.
In 2014, Noteable Women and The Heard represented Manitoba at Unisong’s Canada Day Concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Recently these groups performed for the Virden Arts Council’s Arts Mosaic Concert Series in selections from Handel’s Messiah, along with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. In 2017, the choirs collaborated with 16 local churches to perform an Easter Cantata.
Looking forward to November 3, 2018, the choirs are preparing for a short program to bring to local nursing homes in Virden and Brandon, followed by a time of socializing. The choirs will then reconvene at the end of February to prepare for the Virden Music and Arts Festival.
Konektis – Michelle Chyzyk, conductor
Konektis in the language of Esperanto means "connected", and this newly-minted ensemble strives to be connected with each other and also with the charismatic music that they perform. Launching its third exciting year, the choir is comprised of singers from Brandon and surrounding area, many of whom are past members of the Western Manitoba Youth Choir. Konektis enjoyed a recent workshop with Julia Davids and the Canadian Chamber Choir as part of that choir's Manitoba tour. They also mounted a major choral event on November 1 at Central United Church, Brandon, together with Crocus Plains Sings, Prairie Blend, and Virden Collegiate.
Spring concerts in Souris and Killarney, dates/places TBA.
Thursday, April 4, 2019 at Knox United Church, Brandon: Final Concert
Hear Konektis in concert together with Prairie Voices here.
The all-women ensemble, das Femmes, was formed in 1998. The number of members has ranged from seven to twelve, coming from a variety of backgrounds and occupations. Several are alumni of Brandon University. The group performs without a conductor, and enjoys presenting dynamic and eclectic programming, ranging from Gregorian chant to contemporary Canadian composers. Last season the ensemble had the great pleasure of joining Tom Jackson in concert at the Westman Centennial Auditorium, in collaboration with Prairie Blend, a men’s choir from Brandon.
Das Femmes performed at an Equine Canada Dressage Show banquet on October 20th, and now looks forward to once again combining forces with the Prairie Blend men’s choir for a Christmas concert. This event is especially significant in that das Femmes will be releasing their long-awaited CD, Where Our Journeys Lead. See the poster below for all the details.
Women in Harmony – Naomi Russell, conductor
Women in Harmony, charted in 1975, is a chorus of 16 women formerly known as the Brandon Barbershop Belles. One of their original members still sings with the group, exemplifying just how dedicated these singers are! This choir belongs to Harmony Incorporated, an international organization of 80 choruses and almost 2500 members that provides training in the art of singing a cappella four-part harmony. Women in Harmony meets every Monday evening at Trinity United Church in Brandon; anyone who would like to join them is very welcome! For more information regarding membership or bookings, contact director Naomi Russell at 204-726-8569. Director Naomi Russell and President Donna Neustaedter attended Harmony Incorporated’s annual International Convention and Competition in Orlando, FL in November.
The chorus enjoyed a weekend retreat in September and mounted a highly successful show on October 20th with a special guest performance by the 130-member choir of Ecole Harrison Chorale. Women in Harmony obviously know how to take it up a notch! Who wouldn’t want to join them?
PRAIRIE BLEND MEN'S ChOIR - DEANNA GINN, CONDUCTOR
Prairie Blend celebrated 15 years in June. While there are currently 25 members in the group, conductor Deanna Ginn points out that some 60 singers have come and gone over the years. "One of the neat things about choral music," she adds, "is there are so many interesting people from all different facets of life and all at different stages in life. We have the privilege of coming together, with the unifying factor being a love of music." The group is proud of their diverse repertoire, which includes spiritual, classical, folk and pop, featuring a variety of languages. They host an annual Christmas concert and a spring/summer concert, and are continually adding shows around Brandon and Westman, recently playing in Strathclair. The choir was recently featured in the Brandon Sun, and you can read the article here. Prairie Blend was delighted to share a concert on Sept. 28 with the Canadian Chamber Choir in their Manitoba Tour, and now look forward to a repeat Christmas special with das Femmes on Dec. 14. See the poster elsewhere on this page for all the details.
Brandon Conservatory Chorale - Elizabeth Grant, conduCtor
This choir was founded by Elizabeth Grant in 1981 as a project for her Master’s in Music degree. Since then, it has grown from 14 members to more than 100 choristers, subdivided into various youth choirs, with singers ranging in age from 5-18. In 2014, BCC added an adult choir named Bel Canto. These choirs continue to thrive, and look forward to singing for you on December 3rd. For information on how to join, concert dates, and ongoing news, please visit their website and Facebook page.
On Saturday April 28, 2018, the Brandon community gathered at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium to honour Dr. Elizabeth Grant for her contribution to the choral arts. Brandon Conservatory Chorale alumni from far and wide arrived to join BCC’s current singers in a rousing concert of favourites, most of them directed by Elizabeth herself. Liz, or “Mama G”, as her choristers affectionately call her, founded the chorale in 1981 as a master’s thesis project. What begin with 14 singers quickly grew to 100 by 1989. Currently, there are 71 choir members. The choirs have performed around the world, including England, Italy and France, and twice at NYC’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. Many of Grant’s former students have gone on to pursue careers in music as teachers, performers and choral directors. Saturday's event brought with it a terrific surprise by way of an announcement by BU's Dean of Music, Greg Gatien. A newly purchased Steinway grand piano will be housed in R.D. Bell Hall at the School of Music. A fund drive entitled "88 Keys" has been launched,and the public is invited to contribute to this piano, which will be named "Liz".
École Harrison School - Marla Fontaine, music specialist
This school boasts five groups, all of whom have participated in the Brandon Festival of the Arts. ÉCHO (Grade 7&8) performed at the Brandon Jazz festival. Last May they presented their final concert, We Are One – A Celebration of Unity Through Song, at Knox United Church.
École Secondaire Neelin High School - Carolyn Gwyer, music specialist
A number of singers attended Provincial Honour Choir in February.
Neelin’s choirs sang at Brandon Festival of the Arts, and Simple Green performed at Brandon Jazz Fest.
The Chamber Choirs took part in a multi-choir project with Brandon University and the Spirit Sands Singers to present T. Patrick Carrabre’s Creation Stories.
Concerts at Neelin, Spring 2018:
Last spring, Neelin celebrated its choir program’s 50th anniversary as part of the school’s 60th birthday. Alumni and current singers joined the choir’s founder, Derek Morphy, in rehearsal and a fabulous concert on May 19, and presented "For We Are Glorious" on June 6. From May 28 - June 2, Neelin’s choirs annual spring tour included northern Saskatchewan cities, its communities, sights and culture.
Vincent Massey High School - Laura Jonasson, music specialist
These choirs participated in several local events which included the Brandon Festival of the Arts, Brandon Jazz Fest, and Vincent Massey's Heritage Days, a gathering of the cultures that are found within the community.
The VM Chamber Choir took part in a multi-choir project with Brandon University and the Spirit Sands Singers to present T. Patrick Carrabre’s Creation Stories.
Creation Stories by Patrick Carrabré
On Sunday, March 4, the Brandon University Orchestra, Concert Choir, and Chorale were joined by students from local high schools to perform Creation Stories, composed by Professor T. Patrick Carrabré. Honouring Carrabré’s significant contribution to Canadian music, 25 years at Brandon University and his 60th birthday, the program included the Spirit Sands Singers, led by Michael Esquash Sr. Creation Stories unites music and musicians from many cultures and styles, weaving together alternate accounts of how our world came into being, celebrating both our common memories and our differences.
All participants agreed that it had been a moving experience, a significant community choral event and certainly a highlight of their music season. The event took place at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium, conducted by Dr. Andrée Dagenais.
Music Monday, May 7, 2018
550 students from Brandon and the surrounding region joined forces in their fourth annual celebration at the Brandon University Healthy Living Centre. Those involved were the Brandon School Division elementary choirs, the Brandon Conservatory Youth Choir, Suzuki Talent Education Program, and the Brandon School Division Grade 8/9 Wind Ensemble. The concert included a mass performance and world premiere of a commissioned work,This Is Where I’m From, by Manitoba composer, Kenley Kristofferson.