Nelson audiences are about to experience a revival of choral music after more than two years of silence.
Youth choirs Solstice and Corazón, directed by Malaika Horswill, and the young adult choir Lalin, directed by Allison Girvan, will perform Eclipse, a joint concert at the Nelson United Church on June 18.
It’s been a hard two years for choirs in Nelson and around the world.
The three Nelson groups all shut down in the spring of 2020 when it became clear that choral singing was a high-risk activity. Starting last September, they began rehearsing with masks and distancing, but not performing publicly. As the provincial restrictions were lifted last winter, they gradually relaxed their pandemic protocols during rehearsals.
Corazón and Lalin, well known for their vibrant stage presence and innovative repertoire, have been missing the opportunity to connect with their audiences.
“This concert is what we’ve been waiting for,” says Horswill, “this chance to share what we’ve been working on and to complete the circle – singers and audience together.”
Girvan says Eclipse will be a celebration of the resilience of choirs across the globe and of the young Nelson singers.
“This is the end of a very long and trying year where these singers have just done miraculous things when it comes to commitment and resilience, week after week showing up to rehearsals with masks on, singing so far apart they have trouble hearing each other.”
At Eclipse, the singers and directors will all do COVID-19 rapid tests before taking the stage, and singers who wish to wear a mask during the performance will do so. Audience members are encouraged, but not required, to wear masks. There will be no checking of vaccine passports.
Corazón’s 20 members range in age from age 15 to 25, and Lalin’s 20 singers are age 19 to 35. The seven members of Solstice, 13-14-years-old, will be joined by a mentor singer from Corazón.
Girvan says the evening will also celebrate Tyler Isaacs-DeJong, who has been in Corazón and/or Lalin for 14 years and will soon move to Victoria. For many years before the pandemic when Corazón had more than 60 members and travelled to festivals across the country, Isaacs-DeJong was often a featured soloist. He was also a well-loved leader within the group.
Isaacs DeJong’s first solo with Corazón, when he was 15, was in the song Awake by Anton Walgrave. On June 18, to acknowledge his departure, Lalin will perform Awake, with Isaacs-DeJong as soloist.
Lalin’s set list for the evening will also include two songs about missing and murdered Indigenous women, reflecting the choir’s focus on Indigenous learning in the past year. Their program will also include Helplessly Hoping, a Crosby Stills and Nash song that features group body percussion.
Two of Corazón’s highlights for the evening will be the Afro-Cuban song Yemaya, and her arrangement of the Andy Shauf song Comfortable with Silence, which will feature the trio of Max Ramos-Swantson, Cetonaya Sammartino and Tamias Elder.
Horswill, who is completing her first year as director of Corazón and Solstice, grew up in Nelson, joined Corazón at age 11 in 2000, sang in the renowned Edmonton youth choir Kokopelli while getting a degree in music education, then co-founded and directed two young adult choirs, Gracenote and Kôr, in Vancouver before moving back to Nelson in 2021, where she took over the directorship of Corazón and Solstice from Girvan.
This will be her first public appearance in Nelson as the director of Corazón.
“It’s just a wild honour for me personally to fully share what we’ve been working on,” Horswill says. “And to share that concert with Allison will be truly special.”
The choirs will perform two back-to-back concerts at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the Nelson United Church, 602 Silica St. Tickets are $13 for the balcony and $18 for the main floor, available at the Capitol Theatre box office. They can be purchased online at capitoltheatre.ca, by phone at 250-352-6363, or in person at the box office.