For the last two numbers of their performance at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Wednesday, Jan. 30, the Elmer Iseler Singers will be joined by more than 180 vocalists from several local choirs.
“We have two pieces to prepare for the evening which we’re all going to sing together … With the Iseler Singers, we’re going to have over 200 singers on stage,” conductor Lydia Adams said.
“We’re singing two wonderful songs by two Nova Scotians actually. One is by Allister McGillivray and the other one is by Leon Dubinsky, who wrote a fantastic piece, We Rise Again, that the Rankins made famous. And so all 200 singers are going to sing those two pieces together at the end.”
The Prince Albert vocal contingent will rehearse the pieces with the Elmer Iseler Singers prior to the performance during a special workshop.
Among local participants are the Arthur Pechey School Choir, Menfolk, the Prince Albert Children’s Choir, the Prince Albert Concert Choir, the École Vickers School Choir, the Watsonairs and the Wesley United Church Choir.
The disparate demographics reflect the lineup of the Elmer Iseler Singers, whose 20 members come from a variety of different backgrounds. Two of the singers hail from Saskatchewan.
“Many of them have degrees and many of them are teachers … we have an assortment of different vocations,” Adams said. “We have a lawyer in the choir and there’s a doctor, and there’s even an aerospace engineer who actually is getting a satellite into space this week … and she’s going to be singing.”
Adams’ own background is steeped in music. Her mother was a piano teacher and church choir director, and Adams would often play the organ in her stead when her mother wasn’t feeling well.
For 17 years, Adams was the pianist for Elmer Iseler himself, a legend of Canadian choral music whose impact can still be felt today. The late conductor left an indelible impact on those who worked with him.
“I just saw the magic that happened when Elmer walked into the room,” Adams said. “He inspired people to sing better than they ever thought they could, and he took them completely out of the ordinary into the extraordinary.
“It was always amazing to see and work … Through his influence, so many of the choral conductors we have in Canada today have chosen to become choral directors because they saw the inspiration he had, and they were inspired to do the same thing.”
The Elmer Iseler Singers were formed in 1998, the year of their namesake’s death, and represented the successor to Iseler’s previous choir the Festival Singers of Canada. Over the course of its history, the choir has embarked on numerous tours and released a series of recordings.
The group’s Prince Albert appearance comes as part of a six-concert tour that will also take them to Thunder Bay, Kenora, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton. Local audiences can look forward to a varied setlist that includes classical music, spirituals, Celtic numbers and Canadian panoramic pieces.
We’re going to have over 200 singers on stage. - Lydia Adams
E.A. Rawlinson Centre marketing director Linda Jensen was enthusiastic about the choir’s appearance in Prince Albert.
“The last time we’ve had a choir perform here in terms of the season was the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and that was in 2005,” Jensen said. “So I think that it’s time. It maybe isn’t a genre that has a huge, huge number of fans, but people who do like choral music are very passionate about it, so I think it’s good if we can provide them the opportunity to enjoy a concert like that once in a while.”
She added, “The other thing is … with the local voices as well, I think that really will add to it. It certainly is exciting for me to think of being able to see the people from Prince Albert performing with this choir, which is the foremost chamber choir in the country. So it is a really great opportunity for the singers who will be taking part.”
Seats are still available for the Elmer Iseler Singers’ performance at the Rawlinson Centre, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $32.55 for adults and $19.43 for children and students.