The final concert of our 10th Season is quickly approaching and we are celebrating in many ways, including flying to NYC to sing with Eric Whitacre, inviting Cantala alumni to perform with us at our Spring Concert, and performing Rachmaninoff’s Six Choruses for Treble voices, op. 15; a special gem from the Women’s choral literature. Here is our Russian Beauty concert program notes to entice you to marking this concert on your calendar. 


Who is Sergei Rachmaninoff?

Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) is a late Romantic composer (late 19c-early 20thc), pianist and conductor who is more well known for his piano concertos and his choral masterpiece for mixed choir, All Night Vigil. Rachmaninoff was born in Moscow and immigrated to the US after the Russian revolution.

While most of Rachmaninoff’s compositional output was written for the piano, choral music seems a natural fit for as well since his style. Its melodious, rich in expressiveness and harmonic colours.

Suite of six Choruses for Treble Voices, Op. 15

In the secular suite titled Six Choruses for Treble voices, the piano takes on a soloist role (Rachmaninoff’s superior specialities as a musician), supporting the choir with sumptuous harmonies. While the pieces are mostly in two parts the transparent melodies, foreign Russian vowels and dramatic expressions of dynamics makes the piece deceivingly challenging. This piece is full of heart wrenching emotion, from loneliness, wonder, pride, hopefulness, dreaming, and longing. In other words all the exciting emotions that composers, singers and musicians a-like love to “sing on” about. These are the only choral pieces Rachmaninoff wrote for Women’s choir, so we are lucky to have this opportunity of finding our Russian voices. Learning the pronunciation of the Russian text has been challenging. It was a daunting project to take on, but just like other challenges, perseverance wins the day. If you speak Russian yourself I would personally like to invite you to come and hear if you think we have done the language any justice.

 Dmitri Kabalevsky wrote choral music? Really!?

His two part lullaby Spatoynai, or goodnight, is simple, elegant and captures the gentleness needed to put a child to sleep.  Taught to Doreen Rao many years ago, I have always been drawn to this melody but the words were only in English. As luck would have it, I have a Russian native speaker in the choir! She was generous to spend time putting the original Russian text to the music. Now we have this authentic Russian lullaby eloquently written in Russian. I am thrilled.

  What else is on the program?

Lu-li-lo-la/ Schafer. By far the most challenging piece we have ever sung (Well, maybe it ties with Schafer’s Gamelan). This piece is embedded with complicated, independent lines and repeated syllables that get the tongue all in a dither-hooray!-its ones of my favorites.

To Be Sung on the Water, The Virgin Martyrs & Sure on this Shining Night-Barber. Like Rachmaninoff, Barber’s compositional style is also very romantic and moving-only the text is in English. We are very lucky to have these pieces in the Women’s choral/song literature as Barber’s choral focus was directed almost exclusively towards mixed choir. Sure on this Shining Night is a unison piece taken from Barber’s solo voice compositions. All three of these pieces have tantalizingly beautiful text and harmonies.

Panis Angelicus/ Franck and Ave Maria/Schubert. We are honored to celebrate Tim Regan’s life in May singing Cezar Franck’s and Franz Schubert’s famous pieces for choir and solo voice, respectively. Timeless beauty captured in melody and harmony.

Early Spring/ Trad. Arr. Kathleen Allen. A large part of what it is to be Canadian is captured in looking forward to spring (Bonus: let it be early, but let’s not get too greedy)… and fishing. This classic folk song from Newfoundland captures the reality of the danger of being a fisherperson as well as the hope that looking forward to Spring brings.

Vesy Vasy Lumen Alle/Harri Wessman. We will have the pleasure of having a flutist join us for this piece. This Finnish folk song is an old familiar melody from Kalevala. Just like all of us would recognize the tune  “Bah bah black sheep”  or “Frere Jacque”, all Finns recognize this piece as the “Kalevala tune”.

We pick up the mood with a performance of Singabahambayo by Victor C Johnson. With cow bell, djembe, and shakers this traditional folk song of South Africa will be a wonderful send out to the summer break.

      Calling all Alumi for our 10th Anniversary

If you are an Alum of Cantala please come and sing with us in May. We are singing Rise Up My Love, Land of the Silver Birch and Jesu Meine Freude, all of which have been performed many times. Email Nancy at for more info on rehearsals and performance times.

But for now we are packing our bags for NYC! …See you in May.