Live music lovers who’ve been missing the big-yet-meticulous sound of choral singing for two years can do a lot of catching up next weekend.
The Reprise Choir and the Vancouver Master Chorale will sing simultaneously but separately in back-to-life themed concerts set for Saturday and Sunday at Vancouver venues within blocks of one another.
The concerts ended up overlapping thanks to pandemic scheduling problems compounded by the lack of sufficient local rehearsal and performance space, according to Jana Hart, Master Chorale artistic director.
“Allowing for adequate rehearsal time after we shut down in December and January, this was the only weekend available,” Hart said. “This shows why Vancouver really needs a performing arts center.”
Old and new friends
The Reprise Choir will squeeze in the only concert that isn’t overlapping with another on Thursday at Fort Vancouver High. The school’s choir and its director, Benjamin Bouton, will also perform. After that, Reprise’s Saturday concert will be at First United Methodist Church on Main Street and the Sunday concert will be at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Reprise is a hand-picked group of 32 voices that includes local music teachers, as well as former voice students of co-founders and artistic directors Janet Reiter and April Duvic. Reuniting the group in recent weeks has been emotional for all, Duvic said.
“Just having the choir back has made our lives so much better,” Duvic said. “I was in tears (during rehearsal) more than once. I was verklempt.”
Duvic hails from Washington’s Skagit Valley and has connections with the Mount Vernon choir that became an early pandemic superspreader. Reprise’s decision to cease all live gatherings at that time was “a hard choice, but it was the good choice,” Duvic said.
Amber Tripp, the choir’s executive director, said she was using Zoom years before the pandemic came along. She became the choir’s instant tech wizard by default and facilitated Zoom singalongs and video performances.
Those helped keep the choir’s social life together, but they’re no substitute for genuine group singing, she said.
“Recording with Zoom is obnoxious — especially for a choir,” she said.
The Reprise concert program is titled “Let the Music Fill Your Soul.” Appropriately for Women’s History Month, Duvic said, eight of the 13 pieces are composed or arranged by women, many of them contemporary Americans.
The piece with the most remarkable backstory might be Emily Lau’s “Universal Prayer,” one section of a larger Mass. Lau is a survivor of the 2012 Costa Concordia shipwreck off the coast of Italy. Her Mass, which draws on Hindu sacred text, is a reaction to that tragic experience.
“She wanted to give a blessing and hope to people who are dealing with catastrophes,” Duvic said. “I get shivers up and down my back just thinking about it.”
Other notable Reprise choices are “Old Friends,” the melancholy Simon and Garfunkel song, “On the Pulse of This New Day,” a Maya Angelou poem set to music by Rollo Dilworth, and the hymn “How Can I Keep From Singing?”
“We tried to choose pieces that go deep, that reach your soul,” said Reiter.
As per state guidelines, masks will be optional for both audience and singers, and proof of vaccination is no longer required. The choir is fully vaccinated.
The Vancouver Master Chorale is a larger community choir that often focuses its 100-plus voices on masterworks. The theme of the upcoming concerts is “Rebirth,” and the centerpiece will be a classic of sweet restfulness: French composer Gabriel Fauré’s 1890 Requiem.
The chorale will be bolstered by Skyview High School’s choirs and by a professional orchestra.
Skyview choir director Philip Denton will take the baton to conduct everyone in “Sing Gently,” a new song about the pandemic by contemporary composer Eric Whitacre. “Sing Gently” will be accompanied by a video made by Skyview students.
“When I first heard this piece,” Hart said, “I wept because it so captured what I was feeling last year.”
The Master Chorale will open its concerts by singing the Ukrainian national anthem, Hart said.
She said all singers and audience members are still required to be masked by the venue, First Presbyterian Church.