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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In a Word...Sable Chan, chorister in Tales of Hoffmann at Edmonton Opera


Chorus Lines
Sable Chan sings, acts, blogs...everywhere
(behind-the-scenes photos provided by Ms Chan)

CHARPO:  Tell our readers a bit about your life. We know you're singing in Tales of Hoffmann but we also know there is more...

CHAN: I'm an avid choral singer within the Edmonton choral community. I've sung with Schola Cantorum, Cantilon Choirs, and The University of Alberta Madrigal Singers. Currently, I'm a member of Pro Coro Canada. I have also done other ensemble work including the Ordo Collective and the Scona Chamber Singers. My choralcentric activities provide creative inspiration for my choral musings on The Choir Girl Blog. This Tales of Hoffmann production is my first experience singing within the Edmonton Opera Chorus. In the daytime, I'm a Speech Therapist with an interest in voice therapy and voice science. When I'm not being a speechie, chorister, or choir girl blogger, I'm often found writing for Sound + Noise, indulging in the Edmonton arts scene, and monitoring my Twitter feed. (@misssable)

CHARPO: Now the process - for each opera (indeed each performance) there is a different language and, even, a different musical vernacular, then the choir master, then the conductor and director, tell us about how the group deals with the various levels towards performance.

CHAN: Our first few weeks of chorus rehearsals were spent with our Choir Master, who ensures notes, word pronunciation, and textual translations are solid. He makes decisions on musical details such as dynamics, breaths etc.,; however, the group understands that these finishing details are malleable until the arrival of the conductor or "Maestro." The Maestro really dictates the musical aesthetic of the production. The Maestro's focus is really to add the finishing elements and combine the individual musical components, provided by the chorus, orchestra, and Principal singers, in order to execute the show. The Director creates the visual realm and manipulates a variety of variables such as characters, physical environment, mood, and movement, in order to effectively tell the story. 

CHARPO:  What has been the most difficult piece you've tackled and why?

CHANUgis Praulins, "The Nightingale," which Pro Coro Canada sang last September for its North American premiere . The piece tells the story of the Hans Christian Andersen tale of "The Nightingale" within a series of movements. The chorus is the main storyteller next to the recorder soloist playing the Nightingale. The tempo and mood changes are quick and a large range of vocal colours are required from beat-boxing to overtone singing.  Each individual chorister needed to seamlessly interchange between being a soloist and a sonorous choral group. In a choir of 24 singers, with a piece that would split into 20 parts, there was no hiding. 

CHARPO: Do directors GET how to use the chorus? You can use Joel Ivany as an example.

CHAN: The chorus serves a different role in every production. In this new production of Tales of Hoffmann, the chorus isn't just a mass of people, but individual characters in this Dustbowl Circus from roustabouts, clowns, dancers, wives, freaks, and more. Our Director, Joel Ivany, is very generous. The first thing Ivany did in rehearsal was provide a verbal walk-through accompanied by a diorama of the stage depicting the different scenes within the Opera. He discussed the themes he was exploring and how our individual characters had a role within the world he created. Being a newcomer to this opera-theatre world, I felt like I was provided with thematic context to make informed character choices. Ivany respects artistic independence, which creates an atmosphere open for experimentation; however, he also challenges you to take thoughts further when he feels like there is room for exploration.

CHARPO: What's the one misconception about the work of a chorus?

CHAN: One misconception may be to view the chorus as merely part of the background. All I know from Edmonton Opera's new production of Tales of Hoffmann is that there would be no circus without the chorus in creating this world of spectacle.

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