Island Consort Choir explores a modern, Canadian repertoire

Classical chamber choir celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday in upcoming shows

Nanaimo’s Island Consort Choir usually sings 300-year-old compositions, but this weekend the ensemble is performing modern fare as they serenade a modern country.

The choir’s new program is called Sketches of Canada: A Concert of Canadian Choral Music. As Canada didn’t formally come into being until 150 years ago, the concert will contain choral pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries.

“This is our 10th anniversary year as a choir and so and it happens to coincide with the Canada 150 anniversary so I thought we should do an all-Canadian show,” Island Consort director Bruce Farquharson said.

“This was an opportunity just to bask in the really considerable talents of Canadian composers … and I picked material that would try to deal with many, but not all, of the characteristics of Canada. So we’re singing material from Newfoundland through to B.C. and from a few sacred pieces to some First Nations work and some serious material and some slightly zany material.”

The choir is holding a pair of Sketches of Canada concerts, first at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Qualicum Beach on Nov. 24 and then at Nanaimo’s Brechin United Church on Nov. 26.

Farquharson said he made some new discoveries of his own as he searched for songs that reflected “the character of this great country of ours.” Some topics covered in the music include the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Prairies and mosquitoes.

“Some of our composers are Vancouverites and very young people in their 20s. So their stuff is certainly new for me and it’s very good, too,” he said.

“I hope that [audiences] enjoy the material that they wouldn’t hear anywhere else, probably, unless they’re real choral people. But I think it would be highly entertaining for them.”

It was an interest in baroque and Renaissance-era that led Farquharson to split off from Nanaimo’s A Cappella Plus to form the Island Consort Choir in 2007. He said some friends of his were wanting to get together to sing “early music” and the Island Consort was born.

He said the group’s 10th birthday is a cause for celebration.

“I totaled up the number of songs that we’ve sung in our program. We just do two programs a year but we’ve sung over 250 different pieces so we’ve covered a lot of ground and that’s reason to celebrate,” Farquharson said.

“It should go on for another 10 [years] at least.”

WHAT’S ON … Island Consort Choir presents Sketches of Canada at St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Qualicum Beach on Nov. 24 and at Nanaimo’s Brechin United Church on Nov. 26. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults, $5 for students and free for children under 12.



arts@nanaimobulletin.com

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