Classical music: Vancouver’s musica intima enters a new season

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Renowned vocal ensemble draws on the past for inspiration and taps into composers of the future

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To the light

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When: April 9, 7:30 p.m.

Or: Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard Street, Vancouver.

More information, tickets: musicaintima.org

novum musica: Showcase of composers

When: April 23, 7:30 p.m.

Or: Pacific Spirit United Church, 2195 West 45th Ave., Vancouver.

More information: musicaintima.org/novum


musica intima is at work with enthusiasm these days: the vocal group has just returned from a tour of the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island, and local audiences will be able to enjoy two projects that celebrate the growing season and renewal.

First, a concert on April 9 at Christ Church Cathedral, featuring classics by Estonian Veljo Tormis and Hungarian Zoltan Kodaly, as well as newer music by Caroline Shaw, Dale Trumbore and Pärt Uusberg, as well as the premiere of a work by Emily Millard. Jacob Gramit, artistic director of the conductorless set, says some of the finer details of the event are still being worked out, but the plan is to sing without a mask and offer unlimited seats; no decision has yet been made on vaccination passports (which are expected to be dropped across the province the day before the concert).

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The title of the concert is taken from the program’s flagship work, Towards the Light by Millard. Gramit says composer Peter Hannan, who has a long relationship with the ensemble, recommended Millard. Several projects were discussed and the one that seemed right was a staging of Emily Carr’s journal texts.

Published in 1966, Carr’s Hundreds and Thousands is an intimate self-portrait of British Columbia’s iconic painter. Her book is a jumble of ideas, domestic worries, family relationships, professional frustrations and productive friendships. Inevitably, Carr always returns to her central inspiration, the British Columbia forest, often used as a metaphor for personal and spiritual growth.

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Millard writes, “I wanted to work with a range of textures to represent the varied experiences of nature described by Carr: the mysterious entanglement of living systems; the humble strength of the elements; the futile desire to control nature; and a way of being with and marveling at the natural world. Towards the Light is dedicated to Carr, whose 150th birthday coincided with the completion of this piece, and whose work continues to inspire respect for the wilderness.

Another venture coming to fruition in April is an outreach project with a select group of emerging composers. During the dark weeks of autumn, musica intima chose a group of composers to work with the ensemble while being supervised by top professionals. The composers each created a pair of vocal works, took lessons with senior composers Tawnie Olson and Jeffrey Ryan, and had readings and contributions from ensemble members.

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In choosing Ryan and Olson, musica intima wanted to work with composers who not only understand choral writing, but consider music for the singular nature of the musica intima ensemble, a handful of very good singers working as a self-directed ensemble, not a choir with conductor. Olson and Ryan are very much part of the musica intima network: they’ve sung Ryan in the past, and Olson has a commission to be heard next season.

Since composers are singular creatures themselves, it’s never quite certain what will come out of projects like this. Speaking on behalf of the singers and himself, Gramit is thrilled with both the growth and the results, and is excited to present the new works in a Composer Showcase on April 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Spirit United Church in Kerrisdale.

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A final aspect of musica intima’s outreach and community engagement in the spring of 2022 is the participation of Carrie Tennant’s Vancouver Youth Choir in the April 9 program. Last year, the ensemble concluded a first successful partnership with the choir, and this initiative has been taken up again this season. A mentorship program has given a quartet of young singers a special opportunity to work with musica intima, and the entire senior choir will perform with the ensemble at the cathedral.

The huge VYC has its own plan for late spring — an end-of-season extravaganza, Brave New World, to be sung June 4 at 7:30 p.m. in downtown’s renovated St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church. See vancouveryouthchoir.com/performances/brave-new-world/

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