One for the ladies

Ariose Women’s Choir sings lesser-known pieces

Sat, April 17 (7:30 pm)
Ariose Women's Choir
Canadian Opus
McDougall United Church, $15 – $20

While Bach is well-known for his choral music, there’s still one type of music that he didn’t write: pieces intended specifically for female voices. 

Dr Marilyn Kerley, conductor of Ariose Women’s Choir, explains that Bach did write the occasional movement just for women’s voices within some of his works. Still, she can’t think of any full pieces that he wrote just for women. 

Finding literature for a women’s choir is not an easy task, Kerley explains, given that many composers are more likely to write for mixed choirs. But this doesn’t mean that all composers follow this trend.

“Other composers, like Rheinberger, have written quite a bit for women,” she says, but adds that she can’t think of anyone who writes exclusively for women.

“It takes a long time to find literature. And you have to find literature that you really like, too.”

In Canada, Kerley continues, much of the women’s literature gets composed when a choir approaches a composer and asks that person to compose something specifically for that group. The composer then writes the work, keeping that particular choir in mind.


But Kerley does note one advantage to this situation concerning finding works for female choirs.

“Most of the well-known literature is composed for mixed choirs, so as a ladies’ choir, we get to do things that are really not heard very often, so less-common music,” she says. “For our audiences, it introduces them to a whole new repertoire of music.”

Ariose’s Canadian Opus concert will present works by about eight different composers. Kerley highlights the diversity in the types of music that the group will sing. 

Sacred music will open the concert. The first number, for instance, is written for 12 different parts and soloists. 

“We always sing it with the choir circling the audience, because it seems to work the best that way,” Kerley describes.

Two more sacred numbers by Vancouver’s Ramona Luengen will follow. Luengen, actually, is one of those composers who has written many works for women’s choirs, Kerley continues.

“She writes quite a bit for women’s choirs, probably because she used to sing in a women’s choir herself.”

Then, some of the other works take their inspiration from nature.

“For instance, we have one piece called ‘Snow Forms,’ and it’s supposed to depict the Northern Lights, or falling snow, or various types of snow. So it’s mostly done with sounds,” Kerley explains, adding that this song is one of the avant-garde pieces in the show.

Nature themes also appear in two sets of songs by Eleanor Daley, an eastern Canadian composer.

“One of the sets is songs of four seasons,” Kerley says. “The other sets are three sets on the theme of roses. She has taken poems that focus on the rose, and set those poems to music.”

Rounding out the repertoire will be some folk literature, as well as works from the Maritimes.

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Fri, April 16 (8 pm)
Greenwood Singers
From Renaissance to Broadway – Greenwood Celebrates 30 Years!
All Saints' Anglican Cathedral, $18 – $20

To celebrate the choir’s 30th anniversary, the group will celebrate with works that include Samuel Barber's “Agnus Dei,” transcribed by the composer from his Adagio for Strings. There will also be music from the musical Guys and Dolls.

Sun, April 18 (10:30 am)
The Choirs of Robertson-Wesley United Church, Knox-Metropolitan United Church and the Willan Chorale
Te Deum
Knox-Metropolitan United Church, free

They will perform two works. One is the orchestral and choral work, Te Deum Laudamus, by French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This is a celebratory work for the Easter season. The other is an orchestral ballet suite by Jean-Baptiste Lully.


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