New choral director anticipates exciting year

Busy Victoria-based music man adds Sooke Philarmonic Chorus to his duty roster

Victoria composer, musician and teacher Nicholas Fairbank is the new director of the Sooke Philharmonic Chorus.

Currently artistic director of the Via Choralis chamber choir, music director at First Unitarian Church of Victoria, and an organ teacher at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, Fairbank has taken on leadership of this regional chorus, which draws singers not only from Sooke and the West Shore, but all over Greater Victoria.

Fairbank, who works as a collaborative pianist, harpsichordist and organist, conductor, adjudicator and clinician, as well as teaching, enjoys the collaborative aspect of choral conducting.

“In music, working with other people is always more interesting and stimulating than performing as a soloist,” he says. “I enjoy the exchange of musical ideas, as well as the challenge of working with a group of people to craft a performance from the bare notes on the page to something that moves the singers and the audience alike.”

Appointed to his latest post by Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra conductor and musical director Norman Nelson, Fairbank sees it as a challenging new conducting opportunity that will allow him to develop as an orchestra conductor at the side of an experienced professional like Nelson.

This fall, the Sooke Philharmonic Chorus will work on excerpts from Handel’s Messiah for the December concerts. Fairbank also plans to look at some lighter classical repertoire, such as a cappella motets and madrigals to help develop such choral skills as tuning and blend. In the spring the major work will be Mozart’s Solemn Vespers.

Fairbank enjoys working on vocal music of all kinds. He says, “Your voice is the most personal of instruments — it stays with you all your life and you don’t have to pack it in a case, lug it around in your car or on your bicycle, or have it tuned and repaired. It is also a universal instrument — with some training, everyone can learn to sing properly, using the breath efficiently and managing the vocal apparatus (vocal chords, lips, teeth, tongue, etc.) so that the effect is pleasing to the singer as well as to the listener.”

The chorus is currently open to new members and is free. All voices are welcome, but tenors and basses are particularly needed. Saturday morning rehearsals are two hours long; dress rehearsals and concerts are evenings or weekends. Previous choral experience is a plus, but not a necessity.

The ability to read music at sight is definitely an advantage, but Fairbank says those who don’t read well often have a good ear and a memory for tunes. Singers are expected to put in time on their own between rehearsals to review their parts.

Rehearsals are held on alternate Saturdays in Colwood (at Church of the Advent) and Sooke (at St. Rose of Lima Church), starting Sept. 19. Interested people should contact Lynda Rose, the chorus liaison at 250-642-3536.