When you think of Whistler you probably don’t immediately identify it as a particularly musical town, at least when it comes to high culture, but the conductor of the British Columbia Boys Choir begs to differ.
“I love the Whistler show,” said associate conductor Edette Gagne. “It’s such a joy because not only are Whistler audiences appreciative, but I find them to be very musically savvy and very chorally educated… It’s by far the best audience sing-a-long ever.”
But if singing holiday carols isn’t your thing, don’t worry; the 32 members between the ages of 10 and 19 in the International Touring Choir are more than capable of carrying the load on their own.
Founded in 1968, the British Columbia Boys Choir has garnered wide acclaim with its more than 900 trained members embarking on 30 international tours over the years. Choir members pride themselves on mastering a wide variety of musical numbers, from Gregorian chants to operas to contemporary folk songs, in both secular and sacred traditions spanning several centuries. It’s that diversity that continues to keep the boys engaged in the swath of material they’re tasked with memorizing before each concert.
“When you think about most young people, they’re probably looking for the path of least resistance, but not these guys. They dig into the most complicated things we could possibly give them, and they love it,” Gagne said. “It’s about building a balanced diet of music so that these young men can sing pretty much anything we give them moving forward, and so they can also appreciate different kinds of music.”
Guests at Friday’s (Dec. 13) concert will be able to enjoy a selection of works that celebrate the joy of music, like 17th century composer Henry Purcell’s Let Voice and Instrument Joyfully Sound to delightful Christmas songs like Not Another Fruitcake and Carols for the Animals, a piece Gagne knew would appeal to her choir.
“We always strive to choose pieces that will captivate the boys’ energy and imagination with poetry and speak to them and speak through them. This is challenging because not all poetry is really boy friendly,” she said. “You have to know that when we find wonderful Christmas songs like Carols for the Animals, which talks about creeping slugs, ladybugs, cats, dogs and monkeys, that it’s a winner for boys.”
Gagne’s group is relatively unique among boys’ choirs because it accepts members up to the age of 24 and includes bass and tenors as well as altos and sopranos — unlike the Viennese school, which refuses older members whose voices have dropped. It’s the high level of professionalism the boys subscribe to — members are expected to rehearse regularly on their own in order to memorize the often complicated numbers they perform — that has ensured the choir’s success for decades, according to Gagne.
“When the International Touring Choir is on stage, it’s a professional ensemble performing; you sense that, you feel that. The dedication and attention to detail that comes both from the podium and from the singers is immense,” she said. “I think that high calibre of performance coupled with watching these boys, who clearly just live to sing, is fabulous. On the rare occasions I get to actually just watch them sing something, it’s so awesome, there’s nothing like it.”
The choral concert will be held at Millennium Place at 7 p.m. Tickets are $26.50 for adults, $24.50 for students and seniors, $12.50 for children, and $22.50 for Whistler Arts Council members. They can be purchased at the venue or online at www.artswhistler.com.
The Universal Timekeepers
Dr. David Helfand hosts a talk at the Whistler Library Wednesday (Dec. 11) looking at how scientists are now able to trace millennia of human history using the basic building blocks of matter: the atom. From a detailed history of the human diet to the beginning of the universe itself, atoms are a universal timekeeper that allow us to maintain an increasingly precise chronology.
The Universal Timekeepers: Reconstructing Prehistory Atom by Atom begins at 7 pm. Admission is free.
Dayglo Abortions at Maxx Fish
Victoria punk rockers Dayglo Abortions have been showing their complete disregard for societal norms since forming in the late ‘70s.
Doors open at 9 p.m. at Maxx Fish. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door, available online at www.clubzone.com.
Skating begins at Olympic Plaza
Free outdoor skating returns to Olympic Plaza starting Saturday (Dec. 14) at 11 a.m.
The rink will be open until the end of March, and is closed for daily maintenance from 2 to 3 p.m. and from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Helmets are available at no charge, and skates can be rented for $5.