Europe 2017 Tour Updates
Elektra will be touring to Europe along the south coast of France to Barcelona in Catalonia from July 20-30, 2017, where we will be performing at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music – one of 24 choirs invited from around the world to perform! Visit this page for updates from the road, posted by 1st soprano and Board member Danica Kell.
What a whirlwind this tour has been. We’ve made some wonderful memories both musical and otherwise.
Our last full day in Barcelona began with a leisurely morning and a shuttle to L’Auditori for a sharing session with a women’s choir from Japan, the Aeolian Singers, who Morna visited two summers ago. We sang a song for each other (Elektra sang “The Valley” and they sang Casals’ “Nigra Sum”), and then workshopped some songs together. We brought along Jeff Enn’s Da Pacem, which was very in with the Symposium’s “Colours of Peace” theme, and they brought along an arrangement of “Sakura, Sakura”.
We also sang Stephen Smith’s “Consider the Lilies” together, which was a very moving experience. After the session, we also had the exciting opportunity to meet one of Elektra’s famous composers, Bernat Vivancos. We performed his arrangement of “Les Anges de Nos Campagnes” at this season’s Chez Nous, and have sung his “Nigra Sum” in previous years. It was absolutely delightful to have a chance to chat with him.
After the sharing session, we had a few hours to ourselves before meeting backs up for our soundcheck in the beautiful L’Auditori performance hall. After the soundcheck, many singers visited the inimitable Sagrada Familia. There are truly no words to describe this building!
In the evening, we met up once more for our final performance, at the closing concert of the Symposium. We opened the concert with Stephen Smith’s “Consider the Lilies”, followed by his “what i want”. It was a really proud moment for us to bring these songs that we love so much to an international audience.
Next up was Ensemble Vine from Japan, who we had shared a concert with at the Palau on Thursday night. We were able to get into the audience for their second song, which was awesome! The second half of the concert featured a Catalan Orchestra and Mass Choir with soprano and bass soloists, who first performed a Ralph Vaughn-Williams’ “Dona Nobis Pacem”. Then, the entire room was invited to join in for Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”- a pretty special way to close out the symposium!
Back at the residence, Elektra took over the fifth floor of one of the towers, and celebrated in style. In fact, we celebrated straight through until 3am, and those of us staying on in Europe sent off the singers heading straight back to Vancouver.
So with our European tour come to a close, we’ll sign off with a line from an Elektra classic, “The Parting Glass”:
– Goodnight and joy be with you all –
Friday, July 28th
Friday morning began with a trip to L’Auditori, where Morna was one three conductor’s leading that day’s morning sing. After a fun physical and vocal warmup, the crowd of choristers and delegates first sang through a lovely Scottish folk song, and then Elektra took the stage. We were joined by 25 delegates to sing through Ottawa composer Kelly-Marie Murphy’s “Instrument of Peace”. We love being able to share the work of Canadian composers with such a global audience!
After our piece, we sang an arrangement of a Catalan folk song, led by the conductor of Cor Vivaldi, and finished up the morning with a suite of songs from children’s games, led by a Japanese Children’s Choir.
Elektra then had the afternoon to explore. Some singers wandered La Rambla, stopping at the vibrant Mercat La Boqueria, some took in a whole whack of sites via a hop-on, hop-off bus, others shopped the gothic quarter or marvelled at the beautiful cathedrals and other architecture Barcelona has to offer, and yet others parked on a patio, sipping coffee or cava and eating delicious tapas and paella.
We met back up at one of the main festival sites for dinner before shuttling to the Santa Maria de Gracia to prepare for our evening concert with a Catalan choir from Lleida, Coral Shalom. We were able to watch their set, which celebrated the works of Catalan singer-songwriters.
The acoustics of the church were resonant and open, similar to those of the cathedral in Aix, and we created some truly magical moments. Several audience members and singers were in tears by the close of the concert!
Back at our residence, Elektra took over the basement to celebrate our two successful full-length concerts at the Symposium. We can hardly believe that tomorrow is our final day on tour! We’re very much looking forward to performing two Stephen Smith pieces at the closing concert of the symposium, at L’Auditori, and then enjoying Beethoven’s 9th symphony as audience members!
Thursday, July 27th
It’s been over 24 hours since we stepped on stage for our first performance at the Symposium, in the breathtaking Palau de la Música Catalana, and we are still coming down from the high. We are full of gratitude for the opportunity to perform in such an incredible concert hall, in front of such a generous audience of the international community, and to so many friends and family abroad, listening via the live radio broadcast.
We were pins and needles all evening after our 4pm soundcheck, where we stared, mouths agape, at the incredible stonework and mosaic decor of the beautiful Palau as we sang through our set. We also met Albert Juliá and Bernat Castillejo, the local musicians who joined us on soprano saxophone and flute, respectively. It can be such a terrifying thing to go into a performance with a new instrumentalist with little rehearsal, but both Albert and Bernat were consummate professionals and fit right in with us immediately.
The hours ticked on and we ran the gambit of emotions from nervous excitement to sentimentality and everything in between. Then finally the time came for the concert to begin, kicked off by host choir Orfeó Català. Imagine having the Palau be your home performance venue!! They were wonderful, of course, and we were so glad we were able to hear a couple pieces from backstage.
When the time finally came for Elektra to walk across the stage, we were so full of joy, pride, and gratitude. Click here to listen to the concert. We will be reliving it again and again for many days to come.
Wednesday, July 26th
We’ve made it to the central focus of our European tour, the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona, Spain. We are beyond honoured to have been selected as one of 24 choirs amongst hundreds of applicants worldwide. We are also so proud to be part of the Canadian Choral landscape. We are the only country to have sent two choirs the the Symposium- the Toronto Children’s Choir, under the direction of Elyse Bradley, performed at the first half of the event.
After checking into our residence at the university, we headed down to l’Auditori to pick up our passes for the Symposium, and then onward to a group dinner, joining up with the Elektralytes who weren’t able to join us in France. Our meal an En Ville was so incredible that it literally made some singers cry. Check out our Facebook album for a picture of the menu!!!
We had incredible tapas to share, all the entrée options were delicious, and the desserts (coconut lime mousse or a salted chocolate ganache) were out of this world. The cava was flowing, as was the wine, and the company was simply divine.
Now we centre ourselves, get a good night’s sleep, and prepare for tomorrow’s concert at the Palau de la Musica!
Tuesday, July 25th
Elektra’s second day in Sète began, as each of our days in France have, with many pastries and coffees and hellos and how-did-you-sleeps. Then, we were off to Carcassonne, adding yet another UNESCO world heritage site to our list. We had some unexpected rainfall in the morning – and just when the vancouverites were starting to get used to the heat – but still greatly enjoyed our tour of the fortified city, including the Cité de Carcassonne Château and Ramparts, and the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, with its amazing stained glass windows.
Following our visit to Carcassonne, we continued to Narbonne and the Domaine Montplaisir, which was a lovely location for a production rehearsal as we continue to gear up for our three performances at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music.
We celebrated our last night in Sète with a hearty meal, a walk along the beach, and for some, a visit to the hotel’s Sky Bar!
Click here for more pictures!
Next stop, Barcelona!
Monday, July 24th
Eight: the number of notes between an octave, the number of parts Elektra often sings in, the number of UNESCO world heritage sites in the city of Arles alone, and the number of days we wish there were in a week, because there is so much to see here in France!
Our day was packed with sights, starting off with a little tour of Arles, courtesy of our guide Nina, who has been such a treat to travel with. We saw two of Arles’ eight UNESCO world heritage sites- the Roman Amphitheatre and the Roman Arena. Both structures continue to this day to showcase art and sport respectively. We also visited the Arles City Hall and serenaded a handful of office staff since the vaulted ceilings lent themselves to a ditty.
Next up was a visit to the Mas de Tourelles vineyard in Beauclaire for a tasting of their unique Roman wines. The vineyard rests on an archeological site where ancient Romans produced wine. Every September, the current owners replicate the process the Romans used thousands of years ago to create three distinct varieties of wine. In Roman fashion, they add spices and fruits during the fermentation process, making for a very interesting taste that is quite different to that of the classic wine we are used to.
We then journeyed to the fortified city of Aigues-Mortes to stroll the narrow cobble stone streets and grab a bite to eat before reaching our final destination for the day, and our headquarters for two nights, the seaside town of Séte.
A few singers found time for a dip in the Mediterranean before our concert soundcheck. Very refreshing after a day of riding the bus!
Our concert at the Cathedrale Souveraine du Monde was a great opportunity to perform the accompanied pieces we will be bringing to the symposium. We were delighted by the reactions of our audience, who seems to truly connect with the emotions of the pieces, whether or not they may have understood the language we were singing in. This is one of the true joys of singing with Elektra- making connections through the universal power of music.
After our concert we had a spontaneous group dinner at a nearby restaurant specializing in late night brochettes (kabobs essentially) and we’re coincidentally served by a server with ties to Canada! We had a blast celebrating together and yes- there was much singing into the night.
Sunday, July 23rd
Today we had our first of 5 performances in Europe at the Cathedral Saint Sauveur in Aix-en-Provençe, after spending a lovely and leisurely morning touring the town.
After learning some history of Aix from our wonderful guide, Nina, most singers stoked up on meats, cheeses, and fresh fruit from the farmer’s market to enjoy before our concert. And of course a French morning wouldn’t be complete without stopping for coffee and pastries!
Our performance at the cathedral in the afternoon was a completely a cappella set. We had such a receptive audience and it was truly a pleasure to sing for them.
After our concert the evening was free to further explore the town. Some singers visited the Sicily exhibit at the Centre D’Art while others shopped the stalls at the open air market on Court Mirabeau, or enjoyed a glass of rosé on one of the many bustling patios.
All in all a great final day in Aix before we depart for our next city of the tour, Sete!
Remember to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and the hashtag #EWCinEurope for more pictures and videos from our trip!
Saturday, July 22nd, 2017
Our first full day in France was a busy one, filled with beautiful ancient buildings, delicious meals, and as always with Elektra, wonderful camaraderie.
Our first stop in the morning was the picturesque Pont du Gard – a UNESCO world heritage site on the Gardon River. Built in the 1st century AD, this three story bridge was built as part of a 50km long Roman aqueduct. Some ladies climbed to the top of the bridge to walk across, and others went down to the river to take a dip!
Our next stop was the quaint town of Avignon, which was abuzz with performers and guests to the annual summer arts festival. We took a tour of the 14th century Palais de Papes (Pope’s Palace) and had the immense pleasure of singing Stephen Smith’s Consider the Lilies in the stunningly resonant acoustics. We counted a 4 second reverb at the end of the piece!
We had the afternoon in Avignon to explore, visiting museums, shopping for souvenirs, and enjoying shaded patios and yummy French cuisine!
After a quiet evening back in Aix, we’re much looking forward to our first concert of the tour tomorrow afternoon!
Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more memories from today!
Friday, July 7th, 2017
We’re singing in the shower and under our breath at the office, we’re serenading our roommates and kids, and practicing Russian and Old Norse pronunciation in our sleep. We are less than two weeks away from our departure to Europe and we’re ELEKTRIC with excitement!
Since our regular season wrapped up, we’ve been focused on polishing up the repertoire we’ll perform first at cathedrals in Southern France, and then in gorgeous Catalan venues as part of the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music (WSCM) in Barcelona, Spain. Starting next week, we’ll be moving into intensive rehearsals to put the finishing touches on our tunes. We are very proud to be highlighting the works of both Canadian and women composers in our European performances, including a couple by our own Stephen Smith, and an arrangement of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” by first alto Kate MacColl. We’re showing our Vancouver pride with songs by Kristopher Fulton and Kathleen Allan, continuing to celebrate women composers (and Canadian ones too!) with “Songbird” by Sarah Quartel, an arrangement of Jane Siberry’s “The Valley” by Beth Hanson, and of course it just wouldn’t be an Elektra set without an Abbie Betinis piece!
Our Europe repertoire also includes a world premiere by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi commissioned by the WSCM as part of a special program that paired choirs and composers from different nations. The piece, called “Juliet November Tango” uses only words from the NATO phonetic alphabet and is a blast to sing. Rounding out our performances are classic pieces by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Franz Schubert, and “Sanctus-Benedictus” from György Orbán’s “Mass No. 6″.
Are you, or someone you know, headed to Europe this summer? Have family in France or Spain? We’d love to have familiar faces in the audience! We will be performing at the following beautiful venues at the end of the month:
July 27th, Palau de la Música Catalana, with Orfeó Català, Catalonia and Ensemble Vine, Japan
July 28th, Santa Maria de Gràcia with Coral Shalom de Lledia, Catalonia
July 29th, L’Auditori, Pau Casals Hall – WSCM11 Closing Concert
Hope to see you there – but if you can’t make it, please come along for the ride by following us here on the blog, and on Elektra’s social media channels! À bientôt!