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Spring inspires choirs to raise their voices

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The World Village Gospel Choir will perform an eclectic mix of material at its upcoming Ubuntu concert.

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The World Village Gospel Choir will perform an eclectic mix of material at its upcoming Ubuntu concert.

Our local halls are alive with the sound of music now that spring has finally sprung.

Three community-based choirs are holding shows throughout May that attest to the wellspring of passion for choral music for which our province is renowned.

Women of Note caps off its celebratory 20th anniversary season with its Spring Fling concert at the Manitoba Legislative Building, Sunday, May 4, at 3 p.m. Tickets are free and available at the door, or by calling 204-255-5279. For more information, see www.womenofnote.ca.

Artistic director Patricia Rabson founded the 75-voice female choir in 1994 and still conducts its three ensembles -- Chorale, Chamber Singers and Massed Choir -- showcased during each of its two annual concerts.

"We started out as a bevy of beautiful maidens who wanted to make a joyful noise," Rabson says wittily over the phone. "But I then realized that I needed more, and also that the women were demanding more. After a few years, I added the chamber choir and it's grown from there."

In addition to retrospective highlights chosen from the choir's past repertoire of 2,300 works, the concert also firmly looks to the future. A newly commissioned work by Canadian composer Allan Bevan, Your Songs, will be premièred that afternoon.

"Allan has written an amazing work, very melodious and haunting, that just grabs you," she says of the nearly five-minute contemporary work based on text by 19th-century Irish poet Joseph Mary Plunkett.

Another feature is a special "gathering of the clans," an anniversary choir comprised of Women of Note alumni that will join the Massed Choir during the finale for a total of 115 onstage singers.

"I'm not looking to give it up in any near-future," the 66-year-old director says when asked about retirement plans. "They're an amazing group of women. I've pushed them to places they never thought they could go, and their demands on me have made me a better musician for it."

-- -- --

The little choir that could, Spirits Call, has now grown to 160-plus members. Founded in 2000 by Margaret Tobin and Dorothy Becker, the inclusive, non-auditioned ensemble for aspiring musicians who were once told -- or believed -- they couldn't sing, performs a benefit concert for the Immigrant Women's Association of Manitoba on Friday, May 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Jubilee Place, 173 Talbot Ave. For tickets (adults $16/youth $5) or further information, see www.spiritscall.com/choir.php or call 204-488-0078.

"I think this choir is awesome," says Jeremy Vallance, who has been the choir's musical director since 2006. "It's all about finding your voice. People have also cried on my shoulder, telling me what trials they're going through and how much singing with others has helped them through. It's become a really important part of their lives and I really love that aspect."

Their next concert -- or "event" -- includes everything from Pete Seeger's If I Had a Hammer to Seasons of Love from the musical Rent, as well as Vallance's own composition, Sing!, with text by SCC member John Wesley Oldham. It also includes special guests Those Guys, an a cappella male octet, and gifted multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Gentil Mis, who landed here in 2010 after fleeing his war-torn native Congo.

"We strive for the energy and the electricity that people really enjoy with our choir," Vallance says. "It's not a pitch-perfect choir, but we have a lot of fun."

-- -- --

Finally, the city's newest choral kid on the block, World Village Gospel Choir, co-founded in 2012 by directors/husband and wife Neil Weisensel and Rachel Landrecht, is also preparing for its next show, Ubuntu.

"When thinking of a theme for our concert, the idea of Ubuntu, or honouring our shared humanity, was what we wanted to present," Weisensel explains, referring to the Nigerian Bantu term of the title.

"We know the problems of the world can feel overwhelming, yet the smallest gesture of kindness can often be the thing that turns our day around for the better."

The eclectic program will include traditional world music songs sung in Arabic and Iroquois, as well as rafter-raising, American-style gospel numbers. Also being offered is music by the Doobie Brothers and Lenny Kravitz, as well as original works penned by Landrecht.

"You will leave our concert feeling uplifted and regenerated," Weisensel promises. "Just think of it as heart-to-heart resuscitation to send you into the coming season."

The concert takes place Saturday, May 24, at 2 p.m. at Knox United Church, 400 Edmonton St. Tickets ($15; kids 12 and under free) available at the door or by calling 204-284-3684. You can also contact worldvillagegospelchoir@gmail.com.

holly.harris@shaw.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 30, 2014 D8

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