Beethoven Project unites singers from afar
This December marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. To celebrate, The King’s University Community Chorus is partnering with the choirs at Concordia University of Edmonton and the University of Victoria to pursue a “Beethoven Project.” This project unites over 200 singers every three weeks for online rehearsals of Beethoven’s ninth symphony. In addition to the work of Dr. Melanie Turgeon (King’s), Dr. Joy Berg (Concordia), and Dr. Elizabeth MacIsaac (Victoria), online rehearsals include diverse presentations from expert singers, vocal coaches, musicologists, conductors, and other professionals from around the globe.
At the project’s inception the hope was to perform live this spring but participants are now preparing for a virtual performance of a section of the fourth movement. To produce a high-quality “performance”, recordings of each singer will be layered by a sound technician to create a virtual chorus.
“You have to be so adaptable this year,” says Dr. Melanie Turgeon, King’s Choral Director, “but the possibilities are endless.” The Beethoven Project has opened up new ways of thinking for music faculty at each university as the online format provides unique opportunities to unite hundreds of singers from afar while also including guests and other experts. Many of these guests participate while navigating the interesting challenge of time zone differences, singing and teaching with project participants at odd hours, and out of the kindness of their hearts. Members from King’s are working with top professional classical singers and conductors, including a conductor from Yale who ran a session on performance practice.
The choice to open up project participation to the Community Chorus at King’s was very intentional, Dr. Turgeon notes, because Beethoven’s ninth is “such a beast to sing; it demands such endurance.” Choirs at King’s are open to singers of all levels, but this piece requires vocal maturity, and the Community Chorus was looking for a challenge.
“It has been a wonderful and unique experience to be able to gather with singers across Western Canada,” says Jordan Scheuermann, a second-year Secondary Education student and Community Chorus alto singer. “I've really enjoyed hearing top tier names speak on some of their studies and interests. As a non-music major, it's a great way to take mini deep-dives into some really interesting new content and perspectives.”