10 years after: Capital Chamber Choir celebrates with Path of Miracles

The Capital Chamber Choir.

This is the season of anniversaries and one to take note of is the 10th birthday of one of the city’s most ambitious ensembles, the Capital Chamber Choir. ARTSFILE asked artistic director Jamie Loback about the past, present and future of this group.

Q. A decade is a substantial period of time. Tell me about the founding.

A. The Capital Chamber Choir (CCC) was established in 2009 by Sara Brooks, who had recently completed her graduate studies in piano performance at the University of Ottawa’s School of Music.  The mandate of the choir was to showcase Canadian choral music.  At that time the choir consisted of 16 members, predominantly music students from uOttawa. 

Q. Tell me about the evolution of the choir

A. In 2012, Sara Brooks left Ottawa to pursue doctoral studies and I was asked to step into the role of conductor. Over the years the choir has expanded to more than 35 members and our repertoire began to include international and Canadian choral composers.  Since 2015 we have performed with the NACO in larger scale collaborative choral projects such as Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem and Britten’s War Requiem.  We have also been involved with the Music and Beyond Festival and last year we completed our first domestic tour to St. John’s, Newfoundland, where we performed at PODIUM, the national conference of Choral Canada which brings together choirs, conductors, and composers from across Canada and around the world. 

Jamie Loback

The CCC has always had a focus on presenting new works, particularly by younger composers who are working hard to make a start.  This year we featured works by Emily Green and Madox Terrell, both members of the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir, an ensemble that we work with regularly.  We believe we have an important role to play in providing performance opportunities for the next generation of choral musicians and to encourage the creation of new works for choirs.

Q. What has running an ensemble for this period of time taught you personally.

A. I have learned the value of embracing a collaborative approach to leadership. All members have something important to offer in rehearsal and it is important to encourage ideas that serve to enhance interpretation and quality of performance.  We have an excellent team of choristers who form our board and a number of specialists within the choir, such as voice teachers, language coaches and composers who contribute to music making.  I have also learned of the importance of balance with regard to the desire for new and innovative programming by the choir with consideration for the audience tastes and desires. 

Q. What do you hope the next 10 years bring?

A. This anniversary has provided an opportunity for the CCC to look back on many significant accomplishments but to also refresh our original mandate and to expand upon where we are now. Our goals over the next 10 years will be focused on the creation of new works through commissions or competitions, recordings focusing on Canadian composers and continuing to build our presence on the regional and national stages by touring. Of course, a major focus will be to continue to build our audience in Ottawa. Personally, I very much look forward to expanding our ongoing outreach to youth and students. The first generation born in the 21st century is coming to maturity and what we have seen so far is enormous potential from both singers and composers alike.

Q. Tell me a bit about Path of Miracles.

A. Path of Miracles was composed by British composer, Joby Talbot, in 2005.  The work was commissioned by Tenebrae and was premiered under the direction of Nigel Short. It is a musical exploration of the Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, the sacred pilgrimage following the ancient route leading from France to the cathedral shrine holding the body of St. James and extending beyond to Finisterre, “the end of the earth” on the western coast of Spain. 

The work evokes four of the major staging posts on the route as an expression of the individual pilgrim’s experience. Each movement is named after one of these staging posts: Roncesvalles, Burgos, Leon and, finally, Santiago.  The piece is a tour de force as the choir is split into as many as 17 different vocal parts (most choral music is no more than a for to eight part split).  The work is performed entirely a cappella with the exception of Crotales (a type of tuned cymbals) and temple bells. 

While the work is deeply spiritual in natural, I believe its inherent beauty can touch people of all convictions. I first heard the final movement of Path of Miracles in Michael Zaugg’s final concert with the Cantata Singers of Ottawa several years ago.  I believe this is the first time all four movements are being performed in Ottawa.

Q. How does it fit within the choir’s mandate?

A. The choir has long been dedicated to programming contemporary composers. I expect that many might ask why this piece and not a Canadian work for this anniversary?

When I was thinking about how best to mark this occasion, the idea of a journey kept coming into my mind – the journey we all take through time, side by side, sometimes not. For me that idea of the journey through time with an ensemble, with friends and colleagues, is paralleled by the journey of the pilgrims reflected in Path of Miracles.  For me, this work is the perfect way to mark this occasion in terms of its complexity but also in terms of its accessibility and profound beauty.

Q. I know you are revealing your next season on Saturday but perhaps you’d give ARTSFILE readers a look at what’s coming up.

A. I can certainly provide a few highlights of what listeners can expect from us next season. Our first concert will be a collaboration with the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir for a performance of Fauré’s Requiem. This concert will also feature a new arrangement of In Flanders Fields by Emily Green (a current member of the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir). In December we will perform The Little Match Girl Passion by David Lang. We will also perform My Light by Canadian composer, Katarina Gimon. I am quite excited for our winter concert which will feature Sun Dogs by James MacMillan (this will be an Ottawa premiere) as well as works by Canadian composers Christine Donkin, Francis Farrell, and Sarah Quartel. Our final concert of the season will feature a new multi-movement a cappella work inspired by the planets of our solar system.  Our complete 2019-2020 programming will be released following our performance of Path of Miracles on June 8.

Capital Chamber Choir presents Path of Miracles
Where: St. Joseph’s Parish, 174 Wilbrod St.
When: June 8 at 8 p.m.
Tickets and information: capitalchamberchoir.ca

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.