Via Choralis on lookout for young members

By giving everybody who wants to sing a voice, Via Choralis helps keep Canada’s cultural heritage alive.

The mixed-voice community chamber choir, founded in 1999, performs a broad repertoire of music, ranging from Renaissance madrigals to contemporary Canadian songs.

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The choir typically performs three or four formal concerts throughout the year. Members will tackle one major work annually, such as Handel’s Messiah, hiring a full orchestra to accompany their singing.

The Victoria Foundation is one of several organizations that support the Saanich Peninsula-based group.

“We would not be able to do what we do in the community without the support of our sponsors,” said Nicholas Fairbank, artistic director of the group. “The funds allow us to continue to present our cultural heritage for future generations.”

The group charges admission to recover costs incurred to produce the public concerts, which can run up to $12,000 in salaries for the orchestra and other professionals to augment the choir.

The regular choir members volunteer their time to perform at community centres or retirement homes. They also lend their voices to other choirs and performing groups when called upon.

“Thankfully, we live in a chorally rich community.”

The choir draws on a roster of between 45 and 50 singers, and is always looking for new members in all voice categories.

Informal auditions for prospective new singers are usually held between early May and late August, assessing skill level and vocal range.

Auditions are short and handled in a gentle, non-threatening way. Prospective choir members should possess some previous choral experience and basic sight-singing skills.

The average age of choir members is about 60, and a drive is underway to attract more singers under 30 by waiving the annual membership fee.

The Young Soloists program provides young students with an opportunity to perform major choral-orchestral works. A choral-conducting mentorship program includes private coaching and the chance to conduct the choir during rehearsals and performances.

Fairbank sees the choir as an opportunity for all members of the community to come together in song.

“We try to choose a repertoire of music to keep the interest of those who have musical skills, while still not [being] beyond the ability of those who are new,” said Fairbank, who also teaches on the faculty of the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Regular membership is $200 annually; those aged 30 and under are free. The choir rehearses at the Saanichton Bible Fellowship Church, 2159 Mount Newton Cross Rd., Saanichton.

The group’s next performance is at 2:30 p.m. on April 19 at St. Elizabeth’s Church, 10030 Third St. in Sidney.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for students and free for those 12 and under. For more information, go to viachoralis.ca.

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