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Singers soar to Canadian competition

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A Winnipeg choir has had its work stacked up against the best in the country.

The University of Manitoba Singers choir participated in the National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs in St. John’s, N.L. and has had its music posted online at CBCmusic.ca 

Victoria Marshall, 21, student president of the University Singers, and Simeon Rusnak, 21, student vice-president, just finished their third year of music and have been with the choir since they started at the school.

"We are a 40-voice mixed choir," said Marshall. "We do a variety of repertoire and one of the things our director is big on is travel. Next year we’re heading to Serbia and northern Italy."

The choir travels to perform with different choirs from all over the world.

"It’s almost like we’re networking when we travel," said Rusnak. "Which is awesome, because we just get to make music with more awesome choristers, singers, and musicians."

For the National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs, the choir recorded their music and sent it to St. John’s. Marshall said it isn’t odd for music competitions to take place this way, because it forces the listener to focus on the audio instead of the visual elements of a performance. 

Rusnak said all the singers in the chorus love music, and that’s why they join.

"We’re really passionate about music," said Rusnak. "We’re really passionate about the choral experience, because it’s not as much about singing, it’s about meeting all these people… you get to meet great people not just here, but nationally and internationally."

Marshall had high praise for Elroy Friesen, who has been the Singers’ conductor since 2008.
"He’s an amazing man to work with, really," said Marshall. "Very inspiring."


"He just inspires the rest of the choir to raise ourselves to a new level of commitment, and to text, and to voice, it’s just awesome," said Rusnak.

To join the choir, a singer must audition. Marshall and Rusnak estimate between 120-150 students from all the university’s faculties try out for a place.

A singer can’t be faint of heart though: the Singers practise twice a week for two hours at a time, in addition to their normal studies.

"We work hard," said Marshall. "It’s tons of fun though."

Rusnak said it can be intimidating.

"When you’re in first year and it’s your first university class and you sit down and then all of a sudden 39 other people start singing all of the music, and you’re like ‘holy smokes, I better step my game up,’" said Rusnak. "It forces other people’s musicianship to another level, which just brings all of us up together." 

Marshall, a voice performance major, and Rusnak, a music history major, are both scheduled to graduate in spring 2014.

To hear their music visit music.cbc.ca/#/artists/University-of-Manitoba-Singers


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