The last week of my Churchill Fellowship travels was spent in Hamilton, near Tornonto - Canada. This was my first visit to Canada - the autumn colours were wonderful, though my hotel was right in the city.
Much of my week was spent with the superb Hamilton Children's Choir - an organisation which provides music education for pre-schoolers right up to school leavers. Last weekend they had a choral day on the Saturday - this was a great introcuction to some of their choirs! I then spent two further rehearsals with them last Monday and Wednesday.
Hamilton is an area with a very mixed demographic, and not all of the young people who join HCC have had any musical training before they arrive. And yet, under the direction of Zimfira Polaz and her magnicicent team, the standard of the music produced was breathtaking. Not only this, some of their pieces (which varied enormously in genre and language) had complex movements in too, which did not did not diminish the quality of singing in any way. Zimfira knows exactly what she wants and achieves this through constant tuning, adjusting and demonstrating until it's right. The warm ups were possibly the most efficient and detailed I'd seen in the whole of my travels!
Whilst in Canada I saw two other choral organisations. Oakville choirs for children and youth - situated between Hamilton and Toronto. I only managed to spend one rehearsal with them, but it was well worth it. I managed to observed their very youngest 'little voices' choirs - with so many attendees they were split into three groups. This was delightful, with a mix of singing games, call and response and rhymes. There was movement mixed in too - and anything new was modelled brilliantly by Jenny Johnston, the teacher of this agegroup. I also got to see their chamber choir - a group of about 22 girls, aged 15-18 or so. This choir was very competent indeed and they produced a beautiful sound, conducted by Charlene Pauls. They were able to change their voices effectively depending on the piece: the delicacy of Schubert, to the chesty sound of Fire by Katerina Gimon!
Lastly, I managed to visit the world famous Tornonto Children's Choir. I observed two of their choirs rehearsing on Friday, which was in preparation for a concert on Saturday. Their Artistic Director, Elise Bradley, was clearly a stickler for detail and many of the pieces were fine tuned and carefully honed until it was right. On first impression, it seemed like military precision - but Elise's unique sense of humour and twinkly eye became evident too! The choirs rehearsing on Friday were their chorale and also the chamber choir 'choral scholars' - members of which are also in their main choir.
Saturday was my last day and as the concert was at 3pm, and my flight wasn't unitl 11pm, so I decided to go to their concert. I was not disappointed! I saw all of their choirs from the 'prep' choirs to the three 'training choirs', plus their main choir and Choral Scholars. The standard was very high - and what struck me more than any other choir I'd seen in the USA and Canada, was the fact that they sounded the most English. Their vowels - even in the youngest choir - were all uniform and very consistent, with long 'ahs' in the middle of words like grass and last. The rendition of A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square was exquisite!
What a brilliant way to end my travels...which have now come to an end. It's been a truly wonderful experience and now the hard word begins: putting into place eveything I've learned and writing my 15,000 word report! Keep checking back for my blog updates as my musical jouney back home begins...