ON STAGE: The Choirs YYJ Winter Concert with Layten Kramer
Where: Farquhar Auditorium, University of Victoria, 3800 Finnerty Rd.
When: Sunday, March 20, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $23.50 (student/children $5) from tickets.uvic.ca
Choir director Marc Jenkins has a name for the entity that comes to life when the singers he directs perform as a unit on stage.
“When the choir and chorus come together, I call it Megachoirasorus,” Jenkins said.
That’s an indication of the sheer size of The Choirs YYJ — more than 100 singers strong — but also the audible roar that erupts when they sing in unison. Jenkins said he often asks the audience to join in exultation, adding another element to an already impressive display.
Jenkins assembles the singers and runs rehearsals throughout the year, and arranges a public concert each summer and winter. The Choirs YYJ is booked to perform its winter concert — originally scheduled for Feb. 5, but postponed due to COVID-19 concerns — this weekend.
It will be the first in-person performance by the group in two years. A handful of singers in the community group will be making their live debut Sunday, which adds to the excitement. The choirs were active throughout the pandemic, but rehearsals were done via Zoom, Jenkins said.
“I met somebody in person at one of our rehearsals for the first time ever last week,” he said. “And they are going to be singing with me on Sunday night. It’s wild.”
The Mini Choir (a 14-person auditioned chamber choir) will kick off the evening with a short performance, followed by a set from 55-member non-auditioned ensemble, The Choir. The Chorus, the final piece of The Choirs YYJ, features an additional 50-plus performers, resulting in abundance of moving parts, which give Jenkins more than enough to handle on show days.
Local singer-songwriter Layten Kramer will appear as a guest at various points during Sunday’s concert, which includes choral versions of hits by everyone from Electric Light Orchestra, Taylor Swift and New Order to The Bangles, Pet Shop Boys and Beyoncé.
Jenkins has run The Choirs YYJ since 2014, and is always reminded of its redeeming qualities when performances take place. After a tough two years, Jenkins wants to pay his good fortune forward, so he’s making the concert Sunday a fundraiser for various local charities.
“All the net proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Victoria Native Friendship Centre,” he said. “They are doing great work in their community, and this is a great way to bring awareness to that.”
Jenkins has also donated 200 tickets to Island Health workers, “as a thank-you for being there for all of us.” He is also donating 100 per cent of the profit from the sale of The Choirs YYJ merchandise to the World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit organization which provides meals for refugees in Ukraine.
“The goal of this concert to share songs that we’ve been learning together with our family and friends. But we also want to use that opportunity to raise money and raise awareness of things that are important to us. It’s a great match.”