Pro Coro Canada’s Choral Series, by the Leading Note

Since the appointment of Michael Zaugg as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Pro Coro Canada has commissioned and/or premiered over 15 works by Canadian composers. While several works stem from the creative minds of established musical personalities such as Murray Schafer or Peter Togni, a specific focus of Michael Zaugg is the development of choral literature for professional choirs by emerging composers. We are pleased to feature the following 13 titles by seven outstanding young Canadian composers.

Stuart Beatch – Pange Lingua (SATB divisi a cappella) – Motet for Maundy Thursday

  • Pange Lingua was Pro Coro’s first encounter with the virtuoso style of Beatch. This motet opens with a grandios statement, which turns into a recitativo style section, featuring the male voices. The ‘extremely fast’ ending could be described as ‘ribbons flying wildly in the wind’.

Stuart Beatch – Prairie Bound (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • As we head towards the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, Prairie Bound is a work of Canadiana. This piece is based on a short poem by the nineteenth-century poet Pauline Johnson, which describes the promise of the Canadian landscape to settlers, and the power of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Stuart Beatch – Resurrectio (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • Part of the program of the National Youth Choir 2016, this composition was a pivotal work for the theme ‘Hell to Heaven’ where it signified the resurrection. Using similar idioms as in Pange Lingua (recitativ, male vs female voices), we find also here a ‘dazzingly fast’ ending, which puts high demands on a choir’s harmonic understanding and vocal skill.

Kristopher Fulton – The Twilight Cities (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • In discussion with Kris Fulton about a new work for my inaugural concert with Pro Coro Canada, we shared our appreciation for graphic novels and comic books. I introduced Kris to the series Les Cités Obscures by Belgian François Schuiten. The cycle The Twilight Cities bases each movement on one of books in the series.

Kristopher Fulton – O Seeker of Dreams (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • For the 2016 concert tour of the National Youth Choir, Kris Fulton contributed this work based on a poem by Canadian Arthur Stringer. The composition starts out with a gentle movement, which eventually develops in a first climax on ‘lonelier Heights’. The middle section builds up again with an exchange between the various sections to the arrival on ‘light’. 

Cy Giacomin – There Was A Time (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • In 2014, Pro Coro Canada collaborated with the Halifax Camerata Singers on a program inspired by the Book of Ecclesiastes. With the first performance being held in Halifax, selecting Nova Scotia composer Giacomin was an obvious choice. His work opens and closes with the same motive in descending chord progression, while the middle section lives from an intense and intensily repeated melody.

Cy Giacomin – The Centenarian (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • When I approached Cy to write a work for the National Youth Choir of Canada in 2016, we agreed on a theme that would put the youthfulness of the choir in perspective. The music goes through the circle of fifths, symbolizing the passing of the year, with a final section summarizing and fading into the whispered moment of ‘ask me anything’.

Cy Giacomin – Lovesong (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • Lovesong by Cy Giacomin is a very approachable setting of a text by his own wife Rachel. The works opens and closes with lush chords, reminiscent of works by Whitacre, while keeping a very distinctly different character in the middle section. Lovesong is the ideal work to explore the compositional style of Giacomin.

Cecilia Livingston – Kiss Goodnight (TTBB a cappella)

  • In each season, Pro Coro Canada performs a concert with Tenor and Bass voices only, featuring the standard male choral works as well as new compositions. Livingston’s work has become an immediate hit with our audiences. The soloist part can be sung by a very high, versatile tenor, though the sound of countertenor is an interesting addition and provides the work with a strong character.

Jason Noble – The Shadows Flee Away (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • Commissioned by Pro Coro for a program about Love, this work employs the choir divided into 16 parts, often having sections being sung by solo voices. Noble sets the texts about love from the Song of Songsand creates far-reaching tonal spheres. His use of iso-rhythmic ideas makes for a vibrant middle-section.

Jason Noble – Missa Remissionem Peccatorum (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • In the annual series Missae, Pro Coro Canada explores musical interpretations of the Latin Mass. The music presented ranges from 1500 to new works. Missa Remissionem Peccatorum was commissioned for this occasion. Jason Noble explores contrasting moods and idioms in each movement, from slowly shifting quartertone sections to rhythmical outbursts.

Robert Rival – L’Aube (Dawn) (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • Pro Coro Canada was looking for a work using texts in French that addressed the theme “light and shadow” and a musical setting that would contrast the massed choir with a solo octet. Robert settled on two poems by Victor Hugo to create a musical diptych that is, at first, tranquil and filled with wonderment, but ultimately heart-breaking.

Jeff Smallman – Sanctus (SATB divisi a cappella)

  • The Sanctus by Jeff Smallman was paired in a concert with Martin’s Mass for Double Choir. The work seems to take its sonorous and melodic inspiration from the Sanctus by the Swiss composer. It shines with a lush pulsation and highlights a choir’s range and musicality.
© Michael Zaugg 2017