Intimate concert celebrates Christmas

NANAIMO – The Vancouver Island Symphony performs with musica intima during Intimate Christmas Saturday (Dec. 15).

Musica intima performs with the Vancouver Island Symphony during the Intimate Christmas concert Saturday (Dec. 15) at the Port Theatre. Back row

Musica intima performs with the Vancouver Island Symphony during the Intimate Christmas concert Saturday (Dec. 15) at the Port Theatre. Back row

by Rosemary Phillips

There is something wonderful about being part of a huge tradition.

For Melanie Adams, being part of musica intima is fun and rewarding.

“I really love Handel’s Messiah,” she said. “I’ve performed it a couple of dozen times, as a soloist and chorister. I know people look forward to it every year. It’s amazing music.”

Adams, a busy mother, wife and music teacher, is one of 12 professional singers who make up musica intima, Western Canada’s award-winning vocal ensemble, a young choral appearing with the Vancouver Island Symphony for its traditional family concert Intimate Christmas on Saturday (Dec. 15) at the Port Theatre.

Except for a couple of maternity leaves, Adams has been with musica intima for 12 years. The singer, originally from Prince Edward Island, now lives in New Westminister.

She first heard musica intima in concert on CBC Radio when in Montreal studying music at McGill University.

“Their sound really stuck with me, so pure and beautiful, a blended sound. I thought; I could be happy singing with a group like that,” she said.

However, her life took a detour.

“I met my husband, got married and forgot all about it until we moved to the West Coast. Then, through a series of coincidences, I heard musica intima was looking for an alto and before I knew it I ended up auditioning.”

She joined in January of 2000. Adams said the audition process is thorough, with a candidate auditioning for the whole group, not just a conductor. It includes various exercises, sight-reading and blending with other singers.

“Because all the singers hold other positions in the organization, we ask the candidate what other experiences they can bring along,” said Adams. “And because we work mostly with consensus we want to be sure the person could work out.”

The group has no choral conductor.

“Every piece has one musical leader, so someone is in charge of getting that piece ready for performance, and for choosing the soloists and voicing,” said Adams. “We are free to chime in with our comments. It’s so much fun, so rewarding, and we all have investment in the music.”

Adams said musica intima is known for being fairly different in its concerts and for freely moving around, often standing in a semi-circle and inviting the audience to act as the 13th member.

Music has always been part of Adam’s life.

“While my parents aren’t musical there was always music in the home,” she said.

“I had piano lessons and took part in drama clubs and school musicals – like a typical teenager.”

When she first started university, Adams had her sights on getting a music degree and becoming a teacher.

However, after a few recitals and being cast in shows she decided to take steps to become a professional musician.

“Right now I’m juggling parenting and performing,” said Adams. “My husband has to be a single dad when I’m out of town and we have great babysitters who help out.”

Besides excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, musica intima will be performing Bach’s Cantata No. 132, Berlioz’ L’enfance du Christ and Gustav Holst’s Christmas Day – all in perfect harmony.

And the VI Symphony will perform under the baton of Pierre Simard.

They’ll  perform segments of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.

People are invited to join the party, toast the season and meet the musicians of the VI Symphony and singers from musica intima.

Intimate Christmas is Saturday (Dec. 15) at 7:30 p.m. at the Port Theatre.

Tickets range in price from $18-$84 and are available at the Port Theatre  box office, located at 125 Front St., by calling 250-754-8550 or

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