We got the chance to sit down with our Chorus Master Tim Shantz (also the Artistic Director of Spiritus Chamber Choir and Founding Director of Luminous Voices…Tim has a busy schedule!) to get his perspective about A Song of Joys.
What makes Stephen Chatman’s A Song of Joys exciting?
Chatman’s looking at this as something universal and uplifting. It’s very colorful, exciting and rhythmic work. People will be able to hear the sounds of Spring and Summer through the music. They’ll be able to hear the greens, yellows, and reds.
What is A Song of Joys based on?
It’s set to fragments of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” poem. Chatman knew this was a companion piece to Beethoven’s Ninth. The last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth is so colorful and joyful and optimistic. Chatman clearly had those sentiments in mind. His choice of text and combination of instrumental and vocal colours makes for a very “joyful” companion.
What is the process you and the Chorus went through to prepare this piece?
TS: The Chorus and I have been rehearsing this piece off and on since January. When a piece hasn’t been performed before, it’s always a challenge to bring it to life. For singers, it is important to grasp the text and language as well as the musical language. Once we connect with the various seeds of influence in the music we work on bringing the composer’s ideas to life.
What are you most excited about?
TS: Unfortunately, I won’t be there to see the Chorus perform the piece, because I’ll be with the Spiritus Chamber Choir in Ireland. But it’s exciting to prepare something new like this and let it go. It is always exciting to hand it off to an interpreter like Roberto (Minczuk, CPO Music Director), who can make great music out of everything. He has a real gift at understanding the large form and architecture of a piece, and presenting it in a way that the audience understands.
The Cantaré Children’s Choir is performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Chorus. Can you tell us more about that?
TS: Beethoven’s Ninth is very demanding of all of the musicians. The voices have to sustain pitches in a very high range for an extended period of time. It is especially demanding of the sopranos. Cantaré helps to lift those notes off of the score and of course, the sentiment of the piece is so joyful and uplifting. Adding youthful voices gives such an infectiously positive spirit to the performance. You can’t help but be excited.
Some of the Cantaré Children’s Choir members haven’t sung this piece before, but once they do, they’ll be hooked for life. It’s overwhelming to hear even as an audience member, but when you’re actually part of the performance with the Orchestra, and with the other choir members, it’s amazing. Beethoven’s Ninth is one of the pillars of classical music.
The lyrics to Beethoven’s Ninth are in German. Does that make it more difficult to prepare?
TS: In some ways yes. But, if you sing the words properly, you’ll be able to make the audience understand even without knowing the language. Our job as musicians is to make ideas and language come to life! We hope that every performance makes pictures, colours and scents of the words.