While most of us have been spending the summer lounging around basking in the sun, the Oakville Children’s Choir have been hard at work at the 8th international World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia, which concluded July 19th.
The Oakville based choir have won Silver and Gold medals, which is no easy feat considering the event includes 27,000 singers from 73 countries, making up 460 choirs, competing in 29 categories.
“We were thrilled!” stated the choir’s Artistic Director Sarah Morrison. “Coincidentally, this past year was the 20th anniversary season of the OCC. And our gold and silver medal wins were exactly ten years after we did this at the Choir Olympics – full circle!”
The OCC are no strangers to competition, first competing under the leadership of founding artistic director, Glenda Crawford in the 2004 World Choir Games in Bremen, Germany. There they won a gold medal in the children’s choir category, and a silver medal in the Folksong category. In 2012, the choir received gold standings in the Youth of Equal Voices and Musica Sacra categories in Cincinnati, Ohio.
For this year’s competition, the Senior Choir competed in the Youth Choir category and sang four songs including Mulligatawny Macbeth by the late Canadian composer John Govedas. They were conducted by Sarah Morrison and with pianist Cheryl Duvall accompanying.
“We only compete once (one shot!),” said Sarah Morrison. “But we had the opportunity to perform in [other] concerts during our time in Latvia, Estonia and Finland.”
Events such as these are incredibly important for the OCC, who definitely thrive under the pressure and relish in the excitement of competition.
Their favourite parts of the tour were meeting other choirs and choristers, and singing informally with them – especially the Leticia Choir of Finland, who they have just made a new sister choir.
“We are honoured to travel and represent Canada at a high level, but the human connections through singing are the best part,” Morrison said.
With the historic “singing revolution,” Latvia has made choral music part of its national psyche. In the 1980s and early 1990s, mass-singing events lead to its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. These events were peaceful, utilising the power of song to mobilise the population towards political change.
While in the region, the choir participated in the tradition of social engagement by performing in an outreach concert in Estonia to raise money for the Day Care Centre Käo (www.kaokeskus.ee) at St. Olaf’s Church in Tallinn. They also performed a full concert at the Temppeliaukio Church (Church of the Rock) in Helsinki, Finland with the Leticia Choir, who came to hear them along with a few other Canadians from Prairie Voices (a choir from Winnipeg who were also competing at the World Choir Games).
“Tours are very worthwhile as they allow choristers to develop leadership skills, work at a high musical level, share music-making with others around the world, experience new cultures, and meet other choristers from around the world,” Morrison said. “We also, of course, grow closer as a choir both musically and personally.”
As the OCC enters its 21st season, they will be continuing community partnerships in Oakville with ensembles such as the Oakville Symphony Orchestra and programs such as Access Music Therapy of Erinoak Kids Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation, and the LightHouse Foundation. They will also be launching a new CD celebrating their 20th anniversary season as well as shooting a number of music video projects this fall.
The group has just released their first music video featuring their boys and young men’s choir (“A Few Good Men” last week on their OCC facebook site). They are also excited to be the host choir for the 2015 Senior Treble Festival in March, which will involve up to 10 choirs from across Ontario.
Morrison adds, “We are also commissioning a new Canadian choral piece which will be premiered at our December 6, 2014 concert by our Cherub and Intermediate Choirs. It’s always busy!”
The choir will be holding auditions for new members in August and September for people between the ages of 4 right up to 24. For more details – www.oakvillechildrenschoir.org