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INTERVIEW | Elaine Choi And Mark Ramsay On PODIUM 2022

By Ludwig Van on May 11, 2022

Elaine Choi and Mark Ramsay (Images courtesy of the artists)
Elaine Choi and Mark Ramsay (Images courtesy of the artists)

Ludwig Van recently connected with Elaine Choi and Mark Ramsay, the choral mavens behind the PODIUM 2022 Choral Conference and Festival.

Can you tell us about the PODIUM Conference? When was it founded, and what is its core mission?

EC: Podium was founded in 1982 and is co-presented every second year by Choral Canada and the provincial choral organization of the host city (Choirs Ontario this year). It’s a bilingual event and consists of two parts: a conference and a festival.

The conference includes interest sessions on a wide range of topics related to choral and group singing. There are also conducting masterclasses, reading sessions of new music, and a marketplace for vendors. The conference brings together choral practitioners, researchers, administrators, students, representatives from the music industry, choristers, composers and other members of the choral community from across Canada and beyond.

The festival features performances by local, national, and international choirs and singing groups. These performances are open to the general public. It’s a fantastic way to hear a lot of different singing groups in one weekend!

MR: The goals of PODIUM are to convene and celebrate the choral arts sector and community in Canada, to provide professional development, performance, research dissemination and networking opportunities for Canada’s choral community, and to undertake choral advocacy initiatives to increase awareness of choral music and engage new participants.

This is the first-ever hybrid festival and conference edition. How does that work?

MR: This conference and festival was planned during the pandemic, while we were facing all kinds of uncertainties. We have found that despite isolation and distancing requirements, choral enthusiasts are resilient and discovered many ways to connect virtually. This is why we are having our first-ever hybrid festival, to create ways to connect even if some of our delegates cannot attend the in-person conference. The virtual delegates will have access to the conference app, where they can access recorded sessions, live chats with presenters, and other special features to engage with both virtual and in-person delegates.

EC: Shout out to Choral Canada staff Sarah and Christina, and volunteer committee member Kirsten for their creativity and efforts to make this possible!

Tell us about the delegates this year.

EC: It’s been four years since our last Podium conference and festival in St. John’s Newfoundland in 2018! Our delegates are elated to travel from all over the country and beyond to take part in this five-day event. Many of our delegates wear multiple hats at Podium. We are session presenters, composers with highlighted pieces, members of performing groups, and active members of our larger choral community. Podium is truly an inspiring event to bring our national choral community closer together, supporting and cheering for one another, learning and growing collectively!

Toronto is a very dynamic city — especially for the arts. How will the conference and festival take advantage of what the city has to offer?

EC: The Podium conference is happening at the Courtyard Marriot Hotel in downtown Toronto and the Festival concerts are taking place at three different concert venues: Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, Metropolitan United Church, and Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.

MR: We are also thrilled to be featuring numerous Toronto artists and groups including Juno award-winners the Toronto Mass Choir, as well as the Canadian Men’s Chorus, Singing Out, and Exultate Chamber Singers.

EC: Another neat aspect of Podium is the number of performing groups we bring to the city for the weekend. Some of the performing groups include the National Youth Choir of Canada, Jason Max Ferdinand Singers, and Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble. Additional Canadian choirs include Dead of Winter, Prairie Voices, Shallaway Youth Choir, and Winnipeg Boys’ Choir. It’s a jam-packed weekend of performances, and they are all open to the general public.

MR: We also have a new initiative this year called Song Sharing, which occurs during some of the daytime concerts. It’s a musical series led by Indigenous knowledge keepers and artists who will help the audience to learn about and honour Indigenous cultures and experiences in a participatory and relational way. These artists include Shannon Thunderbird, elder and artist from Coast Tsimshian First Nations, and Deantha Edmunds, Canada’s first Inuk classical singer.

Some people might be surprised to know that choral singing is actually more popular than Hockey Canada! Why do you think that is?

EC: We might be biased, but what’s not to love about singing with a group of friends! Everyone in a choir feels like they belong in a community. It’s a great way to de-stress and improve your mood after a long day of work. I also like that choral singing can be an accessible and affordable activity for people of all ages, cultures, and walks of life.

How can someone attend the 2022 PODIUM Conference & Festival?

MR: All of the Podium festival concerts are open to the general public. You can purchase tickets through the Podium 2022 website for individual concerts or a festival pass which includes all eight concerts!

EC: We are also looking for a few additional volunteers to be involved throughout the weekend. Folks who are interested can sign up online by visiting here.

Volunteers receive a complimentary concert ticket for every three-hour shift they complete, in addition to a Podium 2022 t-shirt. They also get to play an active role in Canada’s largest choral event!

Is there anything else people should know about Podium 2022?

MR: This year’s conference and festival theme is “Reimagine, Rebuild, Reconnect.” With the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic and the strengthening of collective calls for equity and justice, we believe we have a powerful opportunity to reimagine the possibilities of our choral community.

EC: By sharing performances and ideas, and creating space for curiosity, listening, reflection, and dialogue, PODIUM 2022 aims to inspire all who thrill at the sound of voices joined together in song.


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