By Gurman Sahota, November 29 2016 —
With Christmas nearly upon us, Cum Vino Cantus will host their annual Christmas concert, A Cum Vino Cantus Christmas on Dec. 4. Cum Vino Cantus is a Calgary-based choir that performs for an hour, drinks a glass of wine, the performs for another hour.
Artistic director Jean-Louis Bleau says the tongue-in-cheek choir strives to provide new twists to old classics in addition to performances by musicians in the city such as Neil Cockburn, the Calgary Philharmonic’s organist.
“There will be a mix of music, kind of a twisted interpretation of ‘Jingle Bells’ and a take on ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’,” Bleau says. “The performance is also going to feature Neil Cockburn, CPO’s organist [who is] going to perform the Vito Encarga Fugue with a festive ‘Hallelujah’ which is a rather unique combination.”
Keeping in mind the seasonal audience pull towards traditional choral productions this time of year, Bleau works to keep the show fresh.
“The majority has to do with stuff I think will be interesting for the audience and creating variety of pieces and a mix of music so that it is entertaining,” Bleau says.
Bleau says the aim of each performance is to produce cheers, laughter and chills.
“I wouldn’t want it all to be one type of music which is why we have a mix of some serious repertoire together with some stuff that will make people laugh,” Bleau says.
Sticking with Cum Vino Cantus’ mantra of pushing the boundaries of traditional choral performance, Bleau says there is a sense of enjoyment when it comes to modifying traditional pieces.
“It’s fun to take the traditional pieces that you hear and turn them on their ear which is what Cum Vino Cantus tries to do. [The performance] also [pulls] in repertoire that is amazing and beautiful to listen to and that fits with the Christmas festivities,” Bleau says.
Although Cum Vino Cantus’ holiday production doesn’t come with many surprises, in an effort to remain new and exciting for audiences, the real challenges lie in finding interesting pieces to perform.
“Just coming across repertoire that I really want to do and then trying to find resources to be able to do it,” Bleau says.
With a complex and varied repertoire, Bleau finds new material the choir learns the most rewarding.
“Because of some of the layers and how the harmonic textures of the pieces work, it’s always the most fun and exciting part about rehearsal,” he says.
Not only has the membership of the group grown since Bleau became artistic director, the age range of the group has also shifted from originally a younger choir to a more mature one.
“The interesting repertoire that we do is kind of attracting the attention of other choral singers, so we have a number of people who have joined and now we have a mixed bag of ages and different backgrounds from what the choir used to be,“ he says.
The audience plays a big role in how the choir turns flat pieces into chill-inducing performances, as both the singers and the audience symbiotically work off each other. It’s the motivating goal for Bleau, to continue to have interaction of audience reaction with performance.
“Some of the highlight moments start with the choir realizing that you start to feel the audience’s energy come into [the performance] and everything kind of snowballs from there,” he says. “The experience of the performance magnifies and those chill bumps that other people are feeling is kind of the goal [of the performance.]”
A Cum Vino Cantus Christmas will take place at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer on Dec. 4 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available online.