If you have read our profile of the Capital Chamber Choir (CCC), you will know Amy Desrosiers is their choir manager. That rather prosaic title belies a young musician with exciting ideas and opinions. And she has her own blog: Blonde in the Choir.
There is no mistaking her energy. I met her after a rehearsal of Aella Choir (pronounced eye-la), a new all-female choir she is involved with, and this amid practice for the recording she is making along with the rest of the CCC, as well as rehearsals for the upcoming season, with the Brahms’ Requiem in November. I started by asking whether she went to school for voice.
“I went to the University of Ottawa for flute and had intended to go all the way with that – a PhD in flute performance and musicology. That soon changed as I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me and I became much more interested in the administration side of arts. I ended up with a major in flute and a minor in artsadministration with a keen interest in the choral community here in Ottawa.
“But I took all the choir courses I could. I studied under Laurence Ewashko so you could say, he was my mentor. He always gave me opportunities to further my interests and soon made me choir manager of the Ewashko Singers.”
I wondered if the arts admin side of things is helping her now she is involved in running or promoting two choral groups in the city.
“Yes, the courses included things like event planning, audience development, and consumer behavior.”
Clearly things that all arts groups in Ottawa would love to get a handle on. But organizing and managing can be very different tasks. What are the tricks to managing a group of choristers?
“Keeping everyone in line! But you have to be sensitive to people’s needs. Priorities differ for people. We have some people with young children and demanding job commitments, for example. It takes a lot of careful planning to make everyone happy. Most of all, letting people know the choir’s expectations of them.”
Amy is now involved with two choirs – with CCC as choir manager, and with the recently formed Aella Choir, helping with their social media and publicity. She also sings with the Jazz Lines Vocal Quartet comprised of three other close friends who share the same passion for music.” http://www.peterliuvocals.com/jazz-lines-vocal-quartet.html
“I am very excited about Aella. It is an all-women group that formed back in June of this summer. It was an offshoot of CCC, where the majority of the members are from the choir. It was founded by Jennifer Berntson as a fun summer project until we then realized we were working with something pretty special – an amazing collective talent. We have a really great time rehearsing together and use creative ways to listen and blend together closely as we don’t use a conductor. There are about a dozen singers at present.”
(Watch this space for news of Aella’s first full length concert in February.)
She feels that the choir scene is saturated in a good way. “There are too many great performances to choose from during the season!” As she told us last week she is excited by the repertoire that choirs are tackling, works by composers such as Paul Mealor and Morten Lauridsen. “Audiences are really opening up to this kind of modern work.”
There is an absorbing list on her blog of 10 Contemporary Choral Pieces Every Choir Should Sing that should make anyone excited about modern choral rep.
She does wish for more of a collegial approach to choral work in Ottawa. “There is not much initiative to get us working more together. There is a very informal support network but there could be more mutual support of each other’s concerts, for example in cross-promotion, collaborations, and generating ideas for cooperative efforts to benefit the community . I think we could draw more on each other’s experience.” Amy has in fact written a post on this matter: http://www.blondeinthechoir.ca/2015/07/community-connections-in-ottawa-ottawa.html ).
Like many young singers in the city she is still upset at last year’s loss of Opera Lyra, in whose chorus she sang. “Singing in operas like Carmen was an exhausting but amazing experience, both the experience of performing in the NAC and the friendships I built. It was so worthwhile and I miss it.”
If choral music is so popular in the city, what does she see as the answer for opera to regain its toehold?
“Evolve or fall behind. It looks like the experience from other cities is that much more modern productions and much more intimate settings make it more popular among younger crowds – you have to market carefully and find a middle ground as we have so much access to the musical arts on our phones and laptops. The trick is to strategize how to get them out of the house to the venue while encouraging them to post their experience to social media.”