Malaspina Choir is giving its first performance with new artistic director Fiona Blackburn. (Photo courtesy Sarah Paley Photography)

Malaspina Choir is giving its first performance with new artistic director Fiona Blackburn. (Photo courtesy Sarah Paley Photography)

Nanaimo’s Malaspina Choir returns with a sold-out Christmas concert

Local ensemble gives first performance in two years with new director

By Kathryn-Jane Hazel

When Malaspina Choir began making plans this summer to return to face-to-face rehearsals and put on a Christmas concert, it seemed like a bit of a gamble.

True, they had a new artistic director, Fiona Blackburn, who has been artistic director of the B.C. Girls Choir since 2004 and has also directed the Zephyra Women’s Choir and Pacifica Singers.

The choir also had a new rehearsal venue, St. Andrew’s United Church, and a new website.

Thirty of the choir’s former members committed to participating, with masks and social distancing, down from the usual 60 or so but still enough to produce Malaspina Choir’s signature sound.

But how would they sing with masks on? Would they be able to hear each other’s parts while distanced? What if another wave of the pandemic occurred and they had to cancel? Would enough people be willing to come to the performance?

They needn’t have worried as their gamble paid off. Within two weeks of tickets going on sale for their Dec. 5 concert, Glorious Baroque, they were sold out – a first for the choir and a reward for all the hard work put in by choir members who had not sung for many months.

“Even though the singers are distanced and wearing masks, they are so happy to be in our rehearsal space,” Blackburn said.

The fact that so many people bought tickets doesn’t surprise Blackburn.

“I think people who have always sung in choirs want to come back, and others want to know how we’re doing,” she said. “The people who are coming are going to be as excited as we are to finally perform live.”

The concert features two masterworks of the 18th century – Vivaldi’s Gloria and Handel’s Messiah – and will be a celebration of the choir’s return to singing after two years, as well as Blackburn’s debut.

Four Vancouver Island-based classical soloists – Andrea Rodall, Julia Morgan, Adam Dyjach and Michael MacKinnon – will be performing. They and the choir will be accompanied by the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra, featuring concertmaster Karl Rainer, organist Jenny Vincent, oboist Pippa Williams and trumpeter Daeyong Ra.

Ticket holders are asked to come an hour before the concert’s 3 p.m. start so their vaccination passports can be checked. Masks are required.

More information can be found at Malaspina Choir’s website and Facebook page.

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