After a three-year hiatus, the Brandon University Chorale is embarking on another international tour.
Past versions of the choir visited and sang in Brazil, France and Cuba.
In February, conductor Andrée Dagenais will be leading her charges into new musical territory — the Baltic region.
The current members of the ensemble will participate in workshops and rehearsals with university choristers in Latvia and Estonia. Some of those countries’ most respected choral conductors will also lead the BU singers in songs from their land.
“My students will have the unique opportunity to enhance their skills, become familiar with different performance traditions, learn new repertoire, hear choirs of a high calibre, and interact with music students at the university level and in the school systems in Latvia and Estonia,” Dagenais said. “During this tour, the singers — the future musical educators and leaders in the Westman area and in Manitoba — will be ambassadors of Brandon University. This once-in-a-lifetime experience will also help build respect and appreciation of cultural diversity among the music students involved.”
There will be 19 singers travelling with Dagenais, six of whom are music education majors with a focus on choral music.
The director has witnessed the benefits of such exchanges between musical peers of different countries. Not only will her students perform in historically significant venues, like Tallinn’s Niguliste Museum Concert Hall, Estonia’s oldest university in Tartu, and in Riga’s famed cathedral that dates back to the 13th century, they will also have the chance to appreciate the breadth of music’s social impact.
“The people of the Baltic countries obtained their political independence from the Soviet Union by singing protest songs between 1986 and 1991,” Dagenais said. “Every year, an average of 300,000 people sang together to demonstrate. This pacifist revolution was the impetus for the revival of millions of folksongs in Estonia and Latvia.
“The BU Chorale singers will experience the richness, the depth and diversity of the northeastern European cultural scene, an area from which several prominent 20th- and 21st-century choral composers have emerged.”
The group’s itinerary will also include visits to music departments of Estonian schools, the Riga Conservatory, and the music faculty of both the University of Tallinn and Tartu University.
To help defray the costs of this tour, the Chorale is holding a fundraising screening of “The Singing Revolution,” a film about the musical journey Estonians undertook to liberate their country from Soviet rule.
“The young people, without any political party, and without any politicians, just came together … not only tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands … to gather and to sing, and to give this nation a new spirit,” remarks Mart Laar, a Singing Revolution leader featured in the film and the first post-Soviet prime minister of Estonia. “This was the idea of the Singing Revolution.”
This fundraiser is slated for 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Evans Theatre in the George T. Richardson Centre at Brandon University. Admission is $5 for students and $10 for the general public.
A performance of the works the BU Chorale has prepared for this trip will be presented in Brandon, later in the semester. More information will be provided closer to the concert date.