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VANCOUVER YOUTH CHOIR
WSCM Short Program
Andrew Balfour* (1967- )
Cypress Choral Music
Vision Chant centres around the Ojibway word, “babamadizwin”, which means “journey.” Based on an Indigenous chant style, this work by Cree composer Andrew Balfour is striking for both its stillness and its intensity. Andrew shared with us that the piece is inspired by the intense visions that he experiences in his dreams. Visions, he says, are a vital part of many Indigenous spiritual and cultural practices and a way to journey to the spirit world. The journey that is evoked begins and ends with a soprano melody, at first divided and then, symbolically, unified. What takes place between these musical bookends is the vision itself. In this vision, the dreamer cries out for help from their grandfather and grandmother to ward off the evil Wendigo.
Franco Prinsloo (1987- )
Franco Prinsloo is an award-winning composer from Pretoria, South Africa. His Salve Regina was commissioned by André van der Merwe for the University of Stellenbosch Choir, and premiered on March 12th, 202, just as COVID 19 exploded across the world. Prinsloo uses elements of chant and extended compositional techniques to create a singularly beautiful setting of the traditional Salve Maria text.
Hussein Janmohamed* (1969- )
From composer Dr. Hussein Janmohamed: The Wedding is a programmatic musical piece based on a tragic event in my family’s history. In1950 in Mombasa, Kenya, a bus carrying 26 members of my mother’s extended family returning from a family wedding plunged off the Likoni Ferry into the Indian Ocean, taking the lives of 17 family members. My mother Neena who was five years old at the time and my aunty Khatun are the only living survivors. In 2004 I taught at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa near the Likoni ferry site. My entire being shook with echoes of the accident. The event’s painful memory was deep in my cells. I reflected on how new generations could transform and heal intergenerational pain. Music seemed to be a powerful vehicle. Thus, the genesis of this piece.
The Wedding begins with the celebratory Gujarati folk song “Taaliyo na taale” (commonly heard at weddings) that was sung on the bus before it plunged. The joyful music abruptly ends in suspended long tones leading into a processional funerary chant. Harmonies inspired by the chant cradle Indo-Muslim, Arabic, Persian, Christian and English texts expressing the soul’s longing for unity with its maker. A powerful declaration of La Ilaha Ilallah (There is no God but God) follows. In humble submission the souls are wedded with Allah (God) to Whom we belong and to Whom we shall return (Quran 2:156). There is comfort in knowing that the souls of those who lost their lives are once again united with their Beloved in an abode of peace—a spiritual union.
AURORA (1996- ), Magnus Skylstad (1983- ), Odd Martin Skålness (living), arr. Katerina Gimon* (1993- )
Hal Leonard Publishing
Visit the Hal Leonard booth for a sample copy!
From AURORA: “Apple Tree is about the potential that hides in all of us. We can all save the world if we put our minds to it. If the world won’t listen to scientific proof that the world is dying, maybe it will listen to the dreamers, the children. In a bleeding world the power of the individual is our only hope. Let her save the world. Let him save them all. Believe in us, and maybe we’ll be the generation that saves the world, rather than the one that killed it.” This arrangement was created by Vancouver composer Katerina Gimon specifically for VYC’s performance at the World Symposium on Choral Music.
Apple Tree is published as part of the The Carrie Tennant Choral Series from Hal Leonard.
trad. Moluccas (Indonesia) arr. Ken Steven (1993- )
Hal Leonard Publishing
Hailing from Medan, Indonesia, composer Ken Steven is known for his fusion of Indonesian colours and elements with modern techniques and harmonies. His creative activity and work have made important contributions to the development of choral music in Indonesia. From Steven: “Hela Rotan is a popular Indonesian folk song from the island of Maluku (Moluccas). It tells about the traditional game of tug of war of the people of Maluku using rattan. In this game, even though we compete, the party who wins or loses will get a prize, namely: “togetherness”. Hela Rotan is a call to live in togetherness, even though there are differences that attract each other.”
Hela Rotan is published as part of the The Carrie Tennant Choral Series from Hal Leonard. Visit the Hal Leonard booth for a sample copy!
Tracy Wong* (living), text by Bihzhu
Self-published / Commissioned by the WSCM Artistic Committee
This piece was commissioned by the the Artistic Committee of the World Symposium on Choral Music 2023 to be premiered by the Vancouver Youth Choir at the Symposium. The title, Riuh, is a Malay word that translates approximately to “Chaotic Joy”, and the piece captures this concept through vocal percussion, syncopated rhythms melodic modes drawn from Malaysian musical traditions, and what the composer calls “quirky word play, [and] juxtaposition of calm amidst chaos while making room for both noise and joy.” The music features Malay text by the Malaysian vocal artist Bihzhu, who explains what chaotic joy means to her: “there is liberation when we’re able to embrace chaos with joy, a sense of vitality, of feeling fully alive. And within that energy, a knowing and a certainty that everything is at the right place and the right time, and this is but one thread in the woven tapestry of life.”
Here Comes the River
Patrick Watson* (1979- ), arr. George Chung* (1986- )
Patrick Watson is a singer/songwriter, film composer, and pianist based in Montreal, Canada. I was searching and searching for a song for VYC that spoke to this time in history for all of us. For what COVID has changed in us, for the ripples of loss – not just of loved ones, but of time, moments, rites of passage, and how that loss circles out in our lives and in our communities. I found lots of songs of hope, and joy, about overcoming obstacles, etc, but Here Comes the River resonated with me because it lived unapologetically inside this moment in time. Two lines spoke to me: “Sometimes, it’s gonna fall down on your shoulders / But you’re gonna stand through it all,” and “Sometimes you gotta burn to keep the storm away.”
For VYC, this has become a song that speaks clearly to the importance of resilience and community in our lives. It is a tough time to be young. There has been a dramatic increase in documented cases of anxiety, depression and self harm in youth, and it can be a struggle to find places for authentic, face-to-face, human connection. Having a safe community like choral music, where you are working diligently, side by side with others, to create something of beauty… we don’t have to explain to WSCM delegates the value this brings to our lives and (we believe) to society as a whole. In Here Comes the River, Patrick Watson uses the image of a river flooding an entire town to reflect this struggle. We have worked with Vancouver choreographer Leslie Telford to show through our bodies and through sound that: “Yes, this is really hard. And yes, through our own strength and perseverance, through deep connection with one another, we are going to be okay.”
VANCOUVER YOUTH CHOIR
WSCM Long Program
(Listen to the Land)
Nitohtamok Askîy is a newly-composed work in Woodland Cree, by Cree-Dene composer Sherryl Sewepagaham. Of this piece, Sherryl says “This melody was inspired by the Northern Alberta vista. The birds were exuberantly singing, the squirrels were foraging for winter, and the smell of fall was in the air. Cree beliefs teach that humans are a part of the land and are not separated from it. Everything that is taken from the land must be returned.” The translation of this piece is: “Listen to the land. It teaches us many things. We must take care of it together.”
Ēriks Ešenvalds (1977- )
In Latvian mythology, the northern lights (Kāvi) were believed to be the restless spirits of fallen warriors, still waging battle in the sky. Ešenvalds sets this Latvian folk text for tenor solo, framing a middle section in English with text from the journal entries of two 19th-century arctic explorers, recording the moment they see the northern lights for the first time. The piece evokes so clearly what it is to be completely transformed by the beauty and power of nature.
(from Elements - Mvt. 3)
Katerina Gimon* (1993- )
Cypress Choral Music
Fire is a bold, high-energy and rhythmically-driven piece incorporating vocal and body percussion, nasal singing, and other colourful effects that depict the energy, mystery, and drive of fire in all of its forms. The piece is set with syllables evocative of the vigour of fire. Fire is notated with a combination of traditional and graphic notation and is the third movement in a larger set of SATB choral works called ‘Elements’ (2013). This set abstractly depicts the four natural elements and explores the wide range of capabilities of the human voice. Fire and the full Elements set is published with Cypress Choral Music as part of the Vancouver Youth Choir Series.
Music of Stillness
Elaine Hagenberg (1979- ), text by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
Oxford University Press
In this work, Hagenburg sets Sara Teasdale’s well-known poem ‘There Will Be Rest’. Soaring lines conjure up images of “stars shining, rooftops covered with snow, and finding the music of stillness.” The lines “I will make this world of my devising, out of a dream in my lonely mind” and “I will find the crystal of peace, above me”, hold particular poignancy for young people.
Georgy Sviridov (1915-1998) text by Alexander Blok (1880-1921)
From Musica Russica: “A whirling circle dance, the exuberance of youth, kaleidoscopic images of rural life and love all are captured in Alexander Blok’s poem, written in 1904. Filled with dramatic dynamic contrasts and driving energy, Sviridov’s setting gives this text a colorful musical rendition”.
Namul Ke neun Cheonyeo 나물 캐는 처녀
Hyeon Je-myeong (1902 - 1960) , arr. Kim Dong-Hwan (deceased)
Written and composed by Hyeon Je-myeong in 1932, Namul Ke neun Cheonyeo is a love story of a young shepherd who is feeding his cows in the meadow and falls in love with a girl gathering 나물 (green herbs). The shepherd tries to get the girl’s attention by grabbing her by the wrist. She refuses, but his heart does not change.
Marie-Claire Saindon* (1984- ), text by Annick Perrot-Bishop* (1945-2022)
Cypress Choral Music
Terre-Neuve is an ode to the beautiful and sometimes brutal landscape of Newfoundland, Canada’s Eastern-most province. Marie-Claire Saindon, one of Canada’s most widely performed choral composers, uses varied textures, tonalities and layered rhythms to word-paint evocative text by Annick Perrot-Bishop. Perhaps the most dramatic section depicts the cracking of a glacier through body percussion and the onomatopoeic treatment of the french word for crackling, “craquements”.
Mis on inimene
(What is Human?)
Pärt Uusberg (1986-) text by Doris Kareva (1958-)
A unique voice in today’s choral landscape, Pärt Uusberg has recently risen to international prominence. Uusberg is incredibly prolific, and over the past 12 years he has written hundreds of works, including music for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments, as well as choral music for all combinations of voice types. VYC has spent considerable time over the past 9 years studying and performing Uusberg’s music, and Mis on inimene is one of our favourites. Lush harmonies build to a rich soundscape as the Estonian poem explores what it means to be human. The text is meaningful in today’s climate: “Take care, then you are cared for.”
Shireen Abu-Khader* (living), arr. Hawanim Ensemble: Shireen Abu-Khader* (living), Toujan Atari* (living), Raneem Barakat* (living), Natalie Fasheh* (living)
Dozan World Publishing
The Canadian-based ensemble ‘Hawanim’, made up of four women from the Levant region of the Middle East, share about collaborative creation Beirut: “On August 4th, 2020, a massive explosion took place at the Port of Beirut, damaging most of the city and further putting its people in peril. As soon as the explosion happened, Hawanim felt the urge to respond through a song. Beirut is part of our Levant home, where the sea breeze and the Levantine people’s generosity of spirit flow through our relationships and lives. Beirut is a nostalgic celebration of the city’s beauty, a yearning for renewed joy from the ashes of tragedy, and an offering of love. The story of Beirut and its people is much bigger than the explosion. To the people of Beirut, this music is our spirits crossing oceans and reaching the Mediterranean to embrace you and share your grief.”
VYC is grateful to have worked with two of the members of Hawanim, Dr. Shireen Abu-Khader, and Natalie Fasheh on our performance of this piece.
trad. Keşan, Türkiye, arr. Hakan Önsöz
Canadian Folk Song Medley
trad. Canadian, and music by Dave Baker*, Wade Hemsworth*, Angèle Arsenault *, Leon Dubinsky *, arr. Larry NickeL *, Ron Smail*, Earle Peach*, Allison Girvan*, Hart Rouge*, Stephen Smith*, Ray Knorr*
Cypress Choral Music
Join us as we travel across Canada with folk songs from British Columbia to Nova Scotia! Beginning in our hometown, Royal Hudson tells the story of the train that traveled from Vancouver to Whistler through the coastal mountains of Howe Sound. During the Great Depression, the train carried the Queen of England and buoyed the hope of Canadians. From BC, we travel a looong way (4000km!) to Northern Ontario with Black Fly – a lament by a survey crew being eaten alive by black flies. Traveling west and to the north, our tenors and basses share V’la le bon vent – a traditional French Canadian song. This song is over 300 years old and was sung by the Voyageurs and Coureurs de Bois as they paddled, helping to keep their oars working in rhythm. Moving east again, our sopranos and altos jump into the popular Acadian “mouth-music” song Vichten. Next, Log Driver’s Waltz – classic Canadiana – that tells the story of a young girl who loves to dance and chooses to marry a log driver over his more well-to-do competitors because of his quick, light feet. We finish with We Rise Again from Nova Scotia, a song that has become a beloved anthem of resilience for all Canadians.
This medley is published as part of The Vancouver Youth Choir Series from Cypress Choral Music.
Each piece is also available separately:
Dave Baker*, arr. Larry Nickel
WADE HEMSWORTH*, ARR. Earle Peach*
V'la le bon vent
Angèle Arsenault, arr. Hart Rouge, text by Arthur Arsenault
Vichten is published as part of the The Carrie Tennant Choral Series from Hal Leonard. Visit the Hal Leonard booth for a sample copy!
Log Driver's Waltz
WADE HEMSWORTH*, arr. RON SMAIL*
We Rise Again
LEON DUBINSKY *, ARR. STEPHEN SMITH*
Corey Payette* (1987- ), arr. Elliot Vaughan*
Cypress Choral Music
Gimikwenden Ina is a song taken from Corey Payette’s musical, ‘Children of God’. In this musical, Tommy and Julia, the children of an Oji-Cree family, are sent to a residential school in Northern Ontario. As the school tries to “take the Indian out of the child,” Tommy struggles not to forget his language, his family, and his culture.
The Canadian residential school system was a network of boarding schools that were established and run by the Canadian government and various religious institutions from the 19th century to the late 20th century. The schools were characterized by abuse, neglect, and the forced separation of Indigenous children from their families and communities. They were designed to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture and suppress their Indigenous identities and languages.
Gimikwenden Ina is published as part of The Vancouver Youth Choir Series from Cypress Choral Music.
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