Friday October 31, 2014

The more the merrier for choir

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With a choir the more voices the merrier.

And that includes the Yorkton Community Choir which is preparing to enter its fourth season in September under the direction of conductor Laureen Jemieff.

The choir had about 25 voices its first year, and has grown to 40, but Jemieff wants more.

“The bigger the better,” she said, adding if she had one wish more male voices would come out. “I’m always looking for more men, because I’m looking for balance.”

As it stands only eight men are involved.

As why men are seemingly reluctant to come out, Jemieff said, “I think it’s our culture to be honest,” adding when she taught choir in high school it was hard to get male voices involved.

“But the men that I have are really great singers,” she noted.

“If you’re interested in singing come on out,” she said, adding the choir has a range of participants from high school-age to those with a long interest in singing.

Jemieff said the choir tries to be inclusive, to the point they don’t hold auditions, simply welcoming new voices to join.

“A lot of them are musicians,” she said, adding that is an asset since they read music. “It’s not necessary,” assured Jemieff, “but it’s definitely as an asset if you can read music.”

The community choir has been a project for Jemieff since leaving the teaching field a few years ago.

“When I retired from teaching I took a year off from music,” she said, adding it was during her year of rejuvenation she started getting calls about the potential to start the choir.

“I decided I’d give it a try,” she said, adding she was aware “years back there had been attempts to make one.”

Those attempts never made it, but after Gloria Herauf moved away ending community theatre projects in the city, the idea of a choir was reborn.

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“It fills the void a little (left by the end of the community theatre effort),” said Jemieff.

Taking on the choir was something of a natural for Jemieff, who took music as part of a double major with English in university, and taught choir the last 15 years of her teaching career at Yorkton Regional High School.

The choir covers a range of music annually from classical compositions to gospel, pop, jazz and Broadway. Jemieff said she tries to challenge her singers to keep the experience interesting.

They also do some pieces in foreign languages, such as Lauridsen’s Dirait-ans in French and Ritmo, a Spanish piece.

Jemieff said perspective singers should not be scared by foreign language music, noting they use local resources including bringing in a Spanish language coach to help with the song.

And it worked.

Performed at the Yorkton Music Festival this spring, the two foreign language numbers garnered the choir a recommendation to provincials,

“We made a recording (of the pieces),” said Jemieff. It was sent in, judged, and awarded the Betty Tydeman Choral Award, something the local choir also captured in 2012.

There choir operates on what Jemieff terms semesters, running September until Christmas, then January until May. Participants pay $35 per semester to help cover the costs of music, renting space and advertising, as the group prepares for and then performs four concerts annually.

The choir meets Mondays (starting Sept 8) for two hours of rehearsals each week at the YRHS Choir Room.

The concerts include one in fall, then Christmas, one for the Yorkton Music Festival and a final one each spring.

The choir has gone on the road as well, including the tree festival in Saltcoats.

“I’d like to do one away concert a year,” said Jemieff, adding it is a way to raise awareness regarding the choir.

The next concert for the choir will be Nov. 9, a joint event with the Yorkton Community Band, and will focus on music associated with the war years and Remembrance Day. Works will include ‘I’ll be Seeing You’, ‘For the Fallen’, and ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ as ranged for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

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