On Thursday, February 4, Calgary Phil Presents: Rachmaninoff Vespers – Luminous Voices & Pro Coro Canada will bring together two professional Albertan choirs for the first time. The concert is unaccompanied, letting the vocal work take center stage at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. We spoke with Tim Shantz, Calgary Philharmonic Chorus Master and Artistic Director of Luminous Voices, about the upcoming concert.

Can you explain your role in Luminous Voices?

I’m the Artistic Director of the choir. We started a little over three years ago and the Calgary Philharmonic presented us in our first concert in November 2012. When we were approached about presenting Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, I decided it would be nice to have a conversation with Pro Coro Canada, a choir that has been around in Edmonton for over 35 years. I asked if we could join forces to present that piece and expand that program, so it became an even bigger project.

What can people expect from the concert?

You can expect an orchestra of voices. We have a great chorus at the Calgary Philharmonic, but this is a bit different in that both groups are comprised of professional singers. Most of them have studied music and singing in one form or another, so they have incredible vocalism and talents. You’ll hear 57 singers on stage that can reach the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows and have a full cover of dynamic range. It’s quite a phenomenal sound.

What’s special about the Rachmaninoff piece?

The “All Night Vigil,” or the Vespers, was written in 1915, so it’s not like it’s been around for very long. But it uses the voices in such an incredible way from top to bottom. It’s very melodic, very beautiful sonority, lots of colors and harmonies. It really exploits the human voice and the potential of the highs and lows. There are a lot of parts of that Vespers that are quite familiar to people; and even those that have not heard any of that music before, it’s like you’re taken somewhere else.

Recently CBC Music wrote an article and credited you as a main force behind Calgary’s strong choral music scene right now. What does that recognition mean to you?

It’s really nice that they pinpointed a few things that we’ve been doing. Between the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus, the Spiritus Chamber Choir (which I direct), and Luminous Voices, it is a great time to be making music with all these great people. There are lots of talented people to work with, and lots of music to make. You kind of go from one project to the next. It’s a lot of work but it’s fantastic.

Anything else you want to add?

Luminous Voices has only been around for a few years so for us to collaborate with an organization like Pro Coro Canada that has stood the test of time in Edmonton, and one that I really respect and am part of, it means a lot. I’m also grateful to work with their director Michael Zaugg.