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Singing on the big stage

Miles Mac instructor one of directors for New York-bound choir

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Garth and Lisa Rempel conduct during choir rehearsal at Miles MacDonell Collegiate. (JORDAN THOMPSON)

PHOTO BY JORDAN THOMPSON Enlarge Image

Garth and Lisa Rempel conduct during choir rehearsal at Miles MacDonell Collegiate. (JORDAN THOMPSON) Photo Store

Many musicians wait for years to take the stage in the Big Apple, but this dream will soon come true for the singers of the Winnipeg Youth Chorus.

From Nov. 7 to 10, 2014 — just before Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada — the approximately 45 Winnipeg-based singers will join choirs from the U.S., Austria and Germany to perform Winnipeg composer and educator’s Zane Zalis’ I Believe, an oratorio about the Holocaust.

RM of Rosser resident Tessa Thevenot, 12, is excited about the prospect of performing at the Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall with her fellow choir members. She said she learned about the Holocaust when she completed a school project, and that gives the lyrics more personal significance.

Thevenot joined the choir about two years ago, after co-directors Lisa and Garth Rempel assumed the job of resurrecting the group. Originally started in 1989 for students in Grades 4 to 12, it had ceased to exist in 2005 after the original choir directors left Winnipeg.

Lisa is one of the alumni, and she and Garth, a music teacher at Miles Macdonell Collegiate, decided to take over when their children were old enough to be members, and have been running it since 2011.

Garth said he and Lisa first met through the choir, so it has a lot of significance for them.
Prospective members have to audition, and they range in age from nine to 19.

"We believe that youth within this age group are highly influenced by and through their experiences and their environment," said Lisa. "Although our main focus is on singing and music, we foster an attitude of acceptance, support, developing a good work ethic and treating others with respect."  

Garth said one of the couple’s goals is providing a wide range of vocal opportunities for the choir in terms of musical styles.

"We want to expose the kids to as wide a variety of music as we can," he said. "It’s an eclectic mix."

They recorded with local R&B singer Flo on her anti-bullying song, "Hateless," which included recording the official music video and performing at the MTS Centre in the Rockin’ For Choices concert.

Garth said another difference between the Winnipeg Youth Chorus and other local youth choirs is that they incorporate movement and choreography in their performances.

He teaches with Zalis, and is also thrilled that the choir was invited to perform in New York.
Before next November, the choir has other performances booked, including one at noon on New Year’s Day on the grand staircase in the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Thevenot said this will be the second time that she has sung in that location.

"It’s just amazing to hear the sound there," she said.

She is taking voice lessons and plans to continuing singing with the choir.

"I’m going to stay until I’m old enough to leave," she said.

For more information on the Winnipeg Youth Chorus, see winnipegyouthchorus.com.

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