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REPORT | Performance, Conversations & Connections: A Look Inside Choral Canada’s The PODIUM Conference

By Albert Wong on May 23, 2024

Photo courtesy of PODIUM choral conference
Photo courtesy of PODIUM choral conference

PODIUM, Canada’s biennial conference and festival for choral music, brings together people from across the country to celebrate singing. Presented by Choral Canada and, this year by the provincial counterpart, Alliance chorale du Québec, the event was held in Montréal over the weekend of May 16 to May 19. People from across the country, and some internationally, came to get the pulse of choral music and the industry. All different roles were also represented — from choristers to conductors, students to educators, amateurs to professionals.


Of course, what is a music conference without performances? The festival program listed 25 ensembles taking part in the festival, but there were certainly more choirs involved at other PODIUM offerings such as public pop-up concerts, the community-based group singing Connection Series, and conference interest sessions. Toronto was well represented in the festival by ensembles that included Babεl, Concreamus, Chroma Vocal Ensemble, Toronto Northern Lights, and Nathaniel Dett Chorale.

Concert programs were curated, and choirs were invited to perform at the festival. The offerings were varied and diverse. The programs reflected different traditions and styles of choral music and group singing.

The one constant of PODIUM is the concert by the National Youth Choir of Canada (NYCC). NYCC is composed of auditioned young singers (ages 19 to 26) from across the country. The guest conductor was Roseline Blain.

Their concert was a highlight for me, as it was in the 2022 edition of PODIUM. Of particular note was their set exploring the sacred. Their rendition of ‘O lumière bienheureuse’ by Robert Ingari was sensitive and sublime. There was clarity and direction in this eight-part composition. Rachmaninoff’s Bogoroditse Devo was beautifully performed, supported by a full bass sound. The future of choral music is in good hands.


On the conference front, there were many interesting and current topics to explore. PODIUM presented a series called Critical Conversations where panelists discussed topics that had a social impact: “Exploring Pathways to More Just Choirs”, “Advocating for Collective and Choral Singing in Schools”, and “Voicing the Ecological Crisis”.

These topics go well beyond the question of what should be sung in the concert. From the sessions that I attended, it was clear that the delegates were fully engaged as their questions quickly filled up the time.

Understanding the history and context of the music and its traditions was a recurring theme in a number of sessions. Participants approached these sessions with open minds, and an eagerness to be better informed.

Noted scholar and panelist Laurier Fagnan remarked, “Choral singing is a great equalizer of society.” Choristers come from all walks of life. It was also noted that there are barriers that need to be recognized. Access to music education is not the same across this country.


Conversations would inevitably spill into the session breaks. It is during these in-between times that connections are made. I met some composers who were able to discuss their music with enthusiastic conductors. Some of these connections have lead to performances and commissions of new works.

To support this relationship building, the “Meet the Music Creators” booth was set up at the exhibitor marketplace.

There were a number of conducting masterclasses where emerging conductors had the opportunity to work with seasoned conductors. Music educators in attendance were engaged with performance and language specialists. I met a number of retirees who came simply because of their own interests, and to support their choir.

It was a non-stop, but inspiring and enlightening weekend. The next PODIUM will be held in Victoria, British Columbia in 2026.

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Albert Wong
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