By Tracy Wong
“Shared joy is a double joy. Shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” This Swedish proverb rings true as we reach the one-year mark of this pandemic and reflect on how COVID-19 continues to impact the global choral community. In Canada, the changing restrictions for this evolving pandemic have prompted choral leaders to be more creative, flexible, and resourceful when it comes to keeping the choral community active while adhering to health and safety guidelines. Creative collaborations that were launched since the start of the pandemic continue to help organizations to share resources, while contributing towards continued creation of new music and learning experiences. As a choral conductor and composer, I am fortunate to be a part of the creation of Canada’s cross-country collaborative choral initiatives such as the Bridge Choral Collective and Sonic Timelapse Project.
The Bridge Choral Collective (BCC) was co-founded in Summer 2020 by Allison Girvan, Scott Leithead, Katy Luyk, Geung Kroeker-Lee, Matthew Otto, Carrie Tennant, and Tracy Wong. “BCC represents a bold cross-Canada initiative to generate thrilling new music, rooted in justice, in a time of global contemplation. It cements the bonds among some of Canada’s most innovative youth and young adult choirs, and brings them together to explore and create in partnership with guest artists from around the world.” BCC co-founders bring together their respective choirs, also known as Partner Choirs, in shared online workshops with guest artists. These partner choirs are Corazón Vocal Ensemble (Nelson, BC), Grand Philharmonic Youth Choir (Kitchener, ON), Kokopelli Choirs (Edmonton, AB), Prairie Voices (Winnipeg, MB), Toronto Youth Choir (Toronto, ON), and Vancouver Youth Choir (Vancouver, BC).
The global line-up of guest artists that partner choirs have been fortunate to learn from are University of Pretoria Youth Choir, Moira Smiley, Sherryl Sewepagaham, Rajaton, Elise Bradley, Michael McGlynn & Anúna, Jason Max Ferdinand & The Aeolians, Jacob Collier, FreePlay Duo, and Annika McGivern. Upcoming guests are Elise Bradley & Choirs Aotearoa, Mark Anthony Carpio & The Philippine Madrigal Singers, Rajaton, and Lone Larsen & VONO.
BCC also offers the Building Bridges program, providing opportunities for participation for young singers at the high school and post-secondary level as well as professional development workshops for music educators and conductors, all of whom have the opportunity to learn from some of the above guest artists. Patron choirs and donors have been integral in supporting the continued efforts in quality content.
Sonic Timelapse Project (STP) is “a collaborative choral art commissioning project created as a response to the global COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of gathering content from the emotional landscape of choral communities in Canada and beyond. Using an innovative crowdfunding model, this project brings together shared creativity and financial resources in a time of need to fund the creation of 10 new works as well as support online programming for participating choirs. The project was founded by Katerina Gimon, Laura Hawley, and Geung Kroeker-Lee with the support of Prairie Voices Inc.”
The Canadian Partner Composers involved in the creation of new music are Deanna Edwards, Jeff Enns, Katerina Gimon, Laura Hawley, Shane Raman, Marie-Claire Saindon, Ben Sellick, and Tracy Wong. These composers create new choral works inspired by the thoughts and responses of choral conductors, composers, and choristers about the pandemic. Choirs and choral conductors participate in various crowdfunding tiers to co-fund the commission of new pieces that are flexible for online/distanced rehearsals, may be in multiple voicing arrangements, and be featured on a future choral concert program. Participating choirs have access to learning tracks and supporting resources created by each composer. Perusal sheet music and program notes for all new pieces are available on the website.
STP also features a Creative Workshop series where founders lead choristers and classroom students through the creative reflection and composition process as well as provide supplementary resources (recorded videos, lesson plans, Google slides) to continue supporting choral educators and conductors with quality educational content.
At this point of writing, there are a number of events / workshops by BCC and STP that are still available for those who are interested. Bridge Choral Collective’s Building Bridges program is still accepting registrations for upcoming workshops for youth/young adult choirs and music educators featuring Sir Mark Carpio (of The Philippine Madrigal Singers) and Lone Larsen & VONO (Sweden). Sonic Timelapse Project continues to welcome participating choirs and conductors to their crowdfunding community – participants in Tiers 2 and up will have exclusive access to purchase and perform (digitally/live) a number of the new commissions (based on their Tier) during the Exclusivity Period (up until June 1, 2021). Their educational workshops are ongoing. For more information, kindly visit: https://bridgechoralcollective.ca/ and https://www.sonictimelapse.com/
In essence, collaborative creative initiatives like Bridge Choral Collective and Sonic Timelapse Project are one of the many silver linings for the Canadian choral community during this pandemic. As a choral conductor, music educator, and composer, I am in awe of, and inspired by, the vast creation of new initiatives by my resilient colleagues and am constantly energized witnessing the flexibility and positive response of choral singers and choral supporters. To quote Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt, ACDA Interim Executive Director: “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
Tracy Wong is the Assistant Professor and Choral Director of McMaster University’s School of the Arts, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and conductor of the Grand Philharmonic Youth Choir, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
A few months ago ACDA began soliciting and sharing “silver lining” reflections from our members. We have enjoyed them so much, we decided to share them in a wider way on ChoralNet. Have you experienced a silver lining during the course of this challenging year? Please email a draft to for consideration in this series.