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New choir formed for last OrganWORX performance of season

Recent Canadian work to be featured along with well-known Duruflé Requiem
Elroy Friesen conducts the newly created Schooner Cove Singers during their first group rehearsal at Knox United Church in April. They’ll be performing in the last OrganWORX performance of the season with organist Jenny Vincent at May 27. — Adam Kveton Photo

With one more performance left in the inaugural season of the OrganWORX concert series, Jenny Vincent and organizers are once again bringing something new to Parksville, to be featured at a concert on May 27.

The OrganWORX subscription series kicked off in September of last year after Knox United Church’s music leader and organist Vincent, with the help of the church, managed to raise $93,000 for a digital organ with a wide range of capabilities.

Having combined the organ with a trip into the cosmos with Quirks and Quarks’ Bob McDonald, and with harpist Janelle Nadeau, for OrganWORX’s last performance of its first season, next up is combining Vincent and her organ-playing skills with a newly formed professional choir — the Schooner Cove Singers.

Created from local talent in and around the community, as well as post-secondary students, Vincent said, there is no other group of its calibre in the area.

Coming to conduct the choir is Elroy Friesen, director of choral studies at the University of Manitoba.

Friesen and Vincent worked together in Winnipeg in 2015 at a Royal Canadian College of Organists’ convention and were eager to work together again. That 2015 performance influences their repertoire for the May 27 performance.

A French piece, Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, is one feature in the performance, and likely the only piece concert-goers will recognize.

“It’s one of the most famous works specifically for organ and choir,” said Friesen. “The Duruflé is based on Gregorian chant… It’s light, it’s flowing… ethereal.”

“Like impressionist art, almost,” said Vincent, “if you could put that into music.”

The rest of the concert is all contemporary Canadian music, with Quebecois composer Rachel Laurin’s toccata, along with the three works commissioned for Vincent and Friesen’s 2015 performance: pieces by Leonard Enns, Timothy Corlis and Stephanie Martin.

“They sound completely different because, well, it’s contemporary voices of composers,” said Friesen. “The organ is used in a completely different way for all of it.

“(The music) is maybe a little bit more direct. The colours are in complete contrast. It’s the opposite of ethereal. It’s a little bit more in your face. It’s got a lot of colour, it’s fiery text, a lot of it… There are a lot of different, strong emotions presented in the Canadian works.”

Performing these pieces again offers a rare second-chance for contemporary composers’ commissioned work, as they’re often played just the one time, said Friesen. “And it shows off Canadian composers.”

Though The NEWS caught up with Friesen and Vincent just as the Schooner Cover Singers were meeting for the first time under Friesen’s direction, Friesen said he was happy with he had heard so far.

“They’re sounding really good… very unified,” he said.

Vincent and the Schooner Cover Singers perform Sunday, May 27, at 2 p.m. at Knox United Church (345 Pym St. in Parksville). Tickets are $30 and are available at Mulberry Bush bookstores in Parksville and Qualicum Beach, or at Knox church.

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