by Danica Kell – Elektra 1st soprano.
Sitting in Kerrisdale this evening, sipping my coffee and preparing for the last of three rehearsals to put the finishing touches on our “Norwegian Spring”, repertoire, I found myself musing on what an experience it has been for Elektra to work with renowned choral conductor Maria Gamborg Helbekkmo.
What did we know about Maria going into this guest conductor experience? Well, we knew she was a world class conductor, having founded and directed Norwegian Women’s Choir “Voci Nobili” a group with too many accolades to name, and we knew she was admired and respected by our conductor Morna Edmundson.
Starting on Monday night, we learned much more about this spunky, creative and clearly talented woman.
Sprinkled with high school girls from our Mira program, Elektra sat poised in our new choir order (second sopranos on the end!? Firsts in the middle!? Madness!), on our best behaviour for our distinguished guest. Maria’s warm up involved a lot of relaxation- good thing, because we were about to spend the evening working our butts off!
I was amazed by many things that first night. Perhaps most of all the piano dynamics Maria got out of a choir of 50+, prompting us to sound more like the 25 she is used to.
We were instilled with several Maria-isms, including the direction to “sing with your face”, “sing like you know a secret” or “like it’s the last thing you’ll sing in the whole world”.
Personally, I’m most excited for Saturday night’s performance of “Mary’s Song” by Knut Nystedt. Maria has approached the piece with such sensitivity and investment and the musicality we’re producing as a result of her direction is pretty incredible.
And from the sublime to the somewhat silly, Maria has also added new layers to our performance of “It Was a Lover and His Lass”, a swingle singers tune sure to lighten the hearts of our audience.
What a treat to try something new, to be directed by such an accomplished artist with high high standards she inspires us to meet. A treat too, for anyone sitting in the pews of Ryerson Saturday night, as we sing in the Spring, led by maestros Morna and Maria.