Victoria choir charts new waters

Music director Brian Wismath started with the organization in May and spent the summer planning the 2012-13 season.

Brian Wismath

A new face at the helm plus a changed rehearsal venue could culminate in a collaborative and inspiring season for the Victoria Choral Society.

Music director Brian Wismath started with the organization in May and spent the summer planning the 2012-13 season.

“It’s a large organization. The choir has about 130 to 145 people,” he said, likening it to the Titanic. “Manoeuvring can be a challenge at times. … It takes a big background crew to make sure things move smoothly.”

A change in policy meant a change in practice space for the Victoria Choral Society this season. The audition choir moves from Holy Cross Church to the Oak Bay United Church on Mitchell Street.

“Oak Bay gives us the opportunity to connect with the community which is part of our mandate,” said Wismath. “It’s been a lot of work finding a new location. There’s only so many spaces in the city that can hold as many people as we have. … It’s all very much appropriate and in line with our upcoming season which is full of newness.”

The new leader has a rich choral background. He has served as director of the University of Victoria Chamber Singers and Tucson Masterworks Chorale; as associate conductor of Orpheus Choir of Toronto, Chorus Niagara, and Ontario Youth Choir; and as assistant conductor of Opera in Concert Chorus (Ontario). In 2006, Wismath conducted the Vancouver Chamber Choir as a participant in the Choral Conductors’ Symposium concert broadcast on CBC Radio.

“The choir is looking forward to working with Brian,” said Tricia Johnson, president of Victoria Choral Society’s board of directors. “His energy, dedication, and passion for choral music is infectious.”

With a new musical leader, come new ideas.

“One of my tasks and responsibilities has been finding a way to connect my musical ideas for the organization,” Wismath said. He and the VCS background team filtered through ideas to create “a menu of performances” for this season.

“Next season is a unique season for us because we do two very large concerts with the Victoria Symphony,” he said.

Continuing the long tradition of collaboration with the Victoria Symphony, the Victoria Choral Society will start the season with two performances as guests of the Symphony. In November, the choir will perform Mozart’s Requiem under the baton of Maestra Tania Miller. VCS will join the Symphony again in December to present the perennial favourite, Handel’s Messiah, under guest conductor Michelle Mourre.

The season will conclude in May 2013 with Wismath’s debut leading the choir, featuring a program of standard choral masterworks and unique contemporary compositions. Haydn’s Nelson Mass as well as works by American-Swedish composer Steve Dobrogosz and Latvian composer Peteris Vasks will be performed with soloists and orchestra.

“We’re performing one piece of music that is very much a known work … but we’re also combining it with three fairly modern works,” Wismath said.

“I believe in the importance of educating our audience on music,” he explained. “If we only listen to (one type of music) we tend to grow to only accept the sounds that we’re used to … it’s required to expose ourselves as musicians and our audience base to a variety of music. It keeps them interested in what we’re doing and what comes next.”

The choir is always on the search for new voices and auditions for this season are underway.

Contact membership@victoriachoralsociety.ca for details. Complete information about the auditions can be found at victoriachoralsociety.ca.

Did you know?

Brian Wismath is also music director of the Vox Humana Chamber Choir and the Victoria Conservatory of Music Chorale.