I knew every word, every note, every phrase of the lineup for Cantala's 2016 spring concert Vestiges.
The only thing separating me from the rest of the choir was a few dozen church pews and the newborn baby in my arms.
A Cantala singer for some five years, I had rehearsed with the choir all season, but stepped away when my daughter was born shortly before the big night. My intimacy with the singers and repertoire made for a vivid listening experience, and reminded me how powerful live choral music can be.
Objectively, I already knew Cantala had something special. We've won awards and grants. Clinicians and guest conductors are consistently charmed. Friends and family who frequently hear Toronto's top professional ensembles look forward to our concerts. Even one of my own formative conductors saw us at a choral festival and commented on the quality of our sound. And yet, I needed to experience it myself, from the audience, to really understand the magic of this group.
Cantala has come a long way technically over the years. I couldn't help but listen for dynamic range, phrasing, tidy diction - and I heard them all. But the best part was the heart and soul in the voices.
That same conductor I mentioned, who saw us at the festival? He led (and still leads) a mass choir at my high school. I remember during one rehearsal he said to a room full of two hundred teenagers: "now sing it like you're fifty, sitting next to a fire with your true love". It was beyond our experience, but we understood what he meant. He was asking for more soul in our sound - more individual depth, more wisdom. The Cantala singers bring themselves to the music in this way. Nancy's philosophy is to encourage the soloist within the choir. Each voice is free to tell its own story and, by a miracle of art, those stories blend and balance beautifully for a rich, deep, wise and beautiful sound.
I'm glad I experienced a Cantala performance as a member of the audience. That said, I'm looking forward to getting back to the other side, to sing my part of the Cantala story and revel in the experience, art and community that is choral music.