Westman Youth Choir:
Breaking News: WMY is excited to announce their conductors for the new fall season, Dorothy Dyck and Ian Campbell. Auditions have taken place and tour dates are October 19-22. All details are listed on their FB page (see link below).
Plans are also underway for fall 2020, when this choir will celebrate 40 years of inspiring and changing young lives. This will be a grand event with alumni from far and near anticipating this reunion.
A few photos of last year’s group under the direction of Marla Fontaine and John Wiens:
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, which included special recognition at a Rainbow Stage performance and a cash prize of $1,000. Read the Brandon Sun article here. Since then, VDC’s sold-out audiences have enjoyed a superb Mamma Mia in November, and Beauty and the Beast in May. See the photos below, and more on their Facebook page.
The Virden Collegiate Choral Program is also busily preparing a large variety of spring repertoire. They have appreciated the expertise of two wonderful teacher candidates, Matthew Zimmerman, and Clint McLachlan. Clint has a Masters in Opera Performance and sang with the National Youth Choir.
April 8,9: The Virden Music and Arts Festival hosted performances by The Oak Lake Choirs and Virden Collegiate’s Sound Investment and Concert Choir. This year’s choral adjudicator was Avonlea Armstrong of Winnipeg.
Tuesday, June 11: Virden Collegiate Choir Final Concert, 7:30 pm at the Aud Theatre.
The choirs of Oak Lake are directed by their founder, Karyn Morrow-Penner, who is also the music specialist at Oak Lake Community School. Last fall the choirs presented programs in local nursing homes (Virden and Brandon), followed by a time of socializing. They will reconvene now in February to prepare for the Virden Music and Arts Festival. Noteable Women are also looking forward to an exciting collaboration with Parkland Women's Choir, under the direction of Lori Suss in Dauphin on Saturday, May 11th. Enjoy their bios below:
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.
On May 11, 2019 Noteable Women joined forces with Dauphin’s Parkland Women’s Choir in a concert in Dauphin, MB!
Brandon University choirs - Andrée Dagenais, Conductor
Brandon University Choirs recently mounted two large exciting events.
On March 23, the BU Concert Choir performed the Mozart Requiem and other selections. The soloists were all alumni members of the Chorale – Sharon Rogers, soprano; Erika Rasmussen, mezzo; Clint McLachlan, tenor and Nick Urquhart, bass.
Then, on March 30, the BU Chorale performed Brahms and Mendelssohn motets, some with BU Orchestra. BU chorale also performed Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat and Vasks’ The Fruit of Silence, two stunning works that brought some audience members to tears.
The Chorale and orchestra ensembles finished a successful tour of the Westman/Parkland region during February Reading Week. Bravo to Andrée Dagenais and all singers!
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. They include 19 music educators in the ensemble and a handful of opera majors. Konektis enjoyed a recent workshop with Julia Davids and the Canadian Chamber Choir as part of that choir's Manitoba tour. Konektis recent performances included concerts in the communities of Killarney, Souris and Brandon. The last concert doubled as a fundraiser for the National Youth Choir, a program sponsored by Manitoba Choral Association. Konektis singers Erika Rasmussen and Clint McLachlan, both former member of the NYC, spoke highly of that experience and encouraged donations towards providing others with an opportunity to be involved. Konektis raved about their recent experience at the Canadian Rocky Mountain Festival in Banff, where they were inspired to workshop with Vancouver’s Carrie Tennant and be in the audience for incredible performances by choirs from across the country.
Thursday, November 7: Konektis will hold their 4th annual Choral Konektions Concert, in which they collaborate with other fine Westman Choirs. It is an event they really look forward to. The concert will take place in the newly renovated Central United Church.
You can 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 combined forces with the Prairie Blend men’s choir for a Christmas concert, where they released their long-awaited CD, Where Our Journeys Lead.
Das Femmes performed at the Brandon Kiwanis 100th Anniversary celebrations in February.
Next performance is October 6, 2019. Details to come.
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. Naomi Russell will be headed to southern Ontario on the May long weekend to record with the Canadian Chamber Choir. Another Juno nomination? We certainly hope so!
The chorus mounted a highly successful show last October, with a special guest performance by the 130-member choir of Ecole Harrison Chorale, and are now busy performing for various Personal Care Home residents. Check out the photo below! Women in Harmony obviously know how to take it up a notch. Who wouldn’t want to join them?
Next concert is October 5, 2019. Stay tuned for details.
PRAIRIE BLEND MEN'S CHOIR - DEANNA GINN, CONDUCTOR
Prairie Blend will celebrate 16 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 throughout the Westman region. The choir has been featured in the Brandon Sun, and you can read the article here. Prairie Blend was delighted to share a concert last fall with the Canadian Chamber Choir in their Manitoba Tour, as well as their repeat Christmas special with das Femmes. They perform at the Brandon festival and anticipate an upcoming recording project. They are also hoping to have a website up and running soon!
Sunday, June 23: Hear Prairie Blend Men’s Choir in concert at 3 pm, Knox United Church in Music for a Summer’s Day. The program features Canadian and Estonian works. Admission is $10 at the door.
Brandon Conservatory Chorale - Marla Fontaine, 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 this fall the Chorale Choirs will be directed by Marla Fontaine, and Bel Canto by Kara Dixon. They look forward to your presence at their Open House Rehearsals on September 10 and September 17.
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".
Canzona and the Pacific Baroque Ensemble in Brandon:
On December 4, 2018, Brandon’s Knox United Church was the venue for a spectacular concert by Winnipeg’s Canzona Choir and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. The concert was very well attended and appreciated by all. Westman was especially proud of their alumni singers Karla Ferguson and Aaron Hutton, who are members of Canzona.
The Brandon Festival of Arts was well represented by many Brandon choral groups in March, including high school choirs from Vincent Massey, Crocus Plains, and Neelin, as well as Mecca Community Choir and the Brandon Conservatory Chorale. Liz Kristjanson of Winnipeg was the choral adjudicator.
School Programs in brandon and Neepawa
Crocus Plains - Deanna Ginn, music specialist
The members of CP Sings! Choirs have had a busy spring. The choirs and vocal ensembles participated in the Brandon Festival in March, and Maroon Jive performed at Brandon Jazz Fest. Many students were involved in their successful musical, Freaky Friday, held at Brandon’s Keystone Centre. The choir traveled to Winnipeg and enjoyed their time with Philip Lapatha at Maples Collegiate and Dr Catherine Robbins at the University of Manitoba. They sang three church services on June 2, followed by a day tour to three elementary schools and at the BU acoustic pool. The final concert for all 5 CP Sings! Ensembles, titled Unclouded Day, took place at Knox United on Tuesday June 4.
École Harrison School - Marla Fontaine, music specialist
This school boasts five groups, all of whom participate in the Brandon Festival of the Arts. ÉCHO (Grade 7&8) performed at the Brandon Jazz festival.
Thursday, April 25: Concert titled Raise Me Up, 6:00 pm, at Knox United Church.
École Secondaire Neelin High School - Carolyn Gwyer, music specialist
Neelin’s choirs are well known for their active concert calendar, performing annually at Brandon’s Festival of the Arts and Brandon Jazz Fest. In the past, the Chamber Choirs have taken part in a multi-choir project with Brandon University and the Spirit Sands Singers in a performance of T. Patrick Carrabre’s Creation Stories.
The choirs began the 2019 spring season with a concert titled Yo le Canto, I sing for you.
In April, Neelin performing arts students were involved in a creative musical collaboration based on The Crucible.
On May 21, Neelin’s Simple Green ensemble hosted Gone Country in the Neelin Theatre.
At the end of May, Neelin Choirs participated in an exciting tour of Prince Edward Island learning lots about this region and entertaining in many different venues.
To tie up their year, there was a year-end choral concert called Don’t Stop Me Now held at Richmond Park Church.
Vincent Massey High School - Laura Jonasson, music specialist
These choirs participated in the Brandon Festival of the Arts, and the ensemble Vocal Point performed at Brandon Jazz Fest.
Neepawa Area Collegiate Institute Choir - Blair Chapman, director
In May, NACI students were involved in a very successful production of Once on This Island. They held their year-end concert on June 10.
Additional to the information above, Westman high schools and community theatre groups produced these fabulous productions for their audiences:
April 22 - 27: The Strathclair Drama Club: The Wizard of Oz.
April 25 - 27: Killarney School: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
May 22: Killarney Collegiate Choir (director Lisa Campbell) performed alongside the KCI Jazz Band.
May 31/June 1: Mecca Productions: Shrek.