The Chan Centre, one of Western Canada's most advanced music venues, is shaped almost as a circle. This feature is often not critical when staging an opera nor any performance that only involves a few dozen artists who can remain on the central stage. It does, however, come in handy when 370 singers amass for an exceptional day of male singing.
The VanMan Choral Summit, a full-day event organized by Chor Leoni Men's Choir, will take place in the Chan Centre on March 7. Erick Lichte, artistic director of Chor Leoni, hopes that this event will make choir singers aware of the other ensembles in the Lower Mainland.
“Choirs are an amazing thing. It is an extraordinarily social activity," said Lichte.
"But you spend so much time together with your own choir that sometimes it is less easy for people to spend time with other choirs.”
Lichte invited four men's, youth's and boys' choirs from the Lower Mainland and Seattle, to which he will add Chor Leoni's own choir, as well as their three choirs of young men from the choir's free educational program, MYVoice.
The different age groups singing alternatively in front of the other choirs represents the whole spectrum of the male voice. Lichte believes in what he calls the “transformative power of male choral singing."
“When men sing together, there is something very special that happens. The singers tend to be very open with their emotions [and can be] very aggressive and boisterous but also tender and lulling,” Lichte said. “When men can get together and express themselves in the full range of their feelings, that sort of thing carries over to the rest of the world.”
After the free rehearsals, MYVoice's concert, and the individual choir shows, a massive finale involving all the artists will take place.
“There are four pieces of music that every single choir that is participating had to learn... then at the concert all the choirs can stand in a surround kind of situation in the Chan, because of that circular shape and sing over and around the entire audience,” said Frances Roberts, the masters of music student who is co-conducting the UBC men's choir.
Lichte will conduct the 370 amateur and professional singers himself.
“[Lichte] has given myself and the other directors information with regards to how fast things are going, pronunciation, and he has given us some of the musical artistic elements to rehearse in advance, but then in the end he will have to sort of bring it all together in the mass rehearsal in the afternoon at the Chan,” said Roberts.
Lichte is nevertheless confident that the singers will rise up to the challenge with the mass rehearsal. Keeping harmony in a group of singers whose ends are 50 yards apart will probably be an uneasy feat to accomplish, but the individual preparation that the singers went through should allow for a solid level of singing.
From boys to men, from music majors and singing experts to people who have only just started reading sheet music, every face and facet of male choral singing should come together in what Roberts called a “celebratory event.”
Not only is the event a way for choir singers to gather around their passion and meet like-minded people, it also is a way for the audience to discover the choirs of the Vancouver area.
“I hope that the audience realizes that they have witnessed something that is really good going on in that community, that they may not have known about, and that is just happening in little pockets all over the Lower Mainland,” said Lichte.
The VanMan Choral Summit is on March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chan Centre. Tickets are available at the Chan Centre Box Office.