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Choir president returns after more than three decades

New ensemble accepted for Kathaumixw has connection to first-ever festival
RETURNING CHORISTER: Julie Howard [second row, third from left] attended the first International Choral Kathaumixw in 1984. She is returning for the 2016 festival with Nove Voce choir from Prince George. Contributed photo

A woman who attended the very first International Choral Kathaumixw in 1984 as a nine-year-old will return for the 2016 event. Julie Howard, choir president for Nove Voce from Prince George, has fond memories of the biennial music festival.

“I always recall having been at Kathaumixw. I don't remember much, but I do have a vivid memory of watching a fabulous choir from Uganda,” said Howard. “It was my first experience seeing any performers from another culture. To my nine-year-old self, they were the best choir I'd ever seen. I still remember them as one of the best in my lifetime.”

Howard added that having a highly renowned international festival in “our backyards” is a great opportunity for all singers, but especially young developing ones. “I’m so excited to be returning,” she said, “to have more Kathaumixw experiences.”

Robin Norman, choir director for Nove Voce, is thrilled to be coming to Kathaumixw for several reasons. She is past president of Performing Arts BC (PABC) board of directors and has run her own voice studio for more than 15 years.

Norman was in Powell River in May 2015 when the annual PABC provincial festival took place. Three members of her choir travelled to Powell River to compete.
“They loved their time here, especially the classical-voice venue in Patricia Theatre, the lovely weather and beaches, along with the hospitality we received from everyone,” said Norman.

After the rave reviews, the vote to apply to attend Kathaumixw from July 5 to 9 was unanimous. It was discovered by accident the current choir president was a member of Bel Canto Youth Choir, which competed in the very first Kathaumixw. Its past director, Rose Leowen, also thinks they were the first choir to perform that year.

“What lovely symmetry that some 32 years later a young chorister is returning as a choir president,” said Norman. “We’re a relatively new choir, so it’s an honour for us to be included with so many groups of such great reputations and longevity.”

Norman added they are excited about what they can learn and will hear at the 2016 festival.

A repeat attendee is New Zealand Secondary Students’ Choir (NZSSC), which took three first-place awards in its first Kathaumixw appearance in 2004; mixed-voice youth choir, youth choir and folk and cultural traditions. The number of awards is more than any other choir in the history of the competition, a distinction that still stands.

“We feel very honoured and privileged to have been invited to be the guest choir at Kathaumixw 2016,” said Andrew Withington, NZSSC musical director since 2009. “I first attended in 2004 and then returned in 2010. It’s amazing to be attending for a third time to such a fantastic event, and to Powell River, which is so beautiful. It will be a great experience for our members to hear high-quality choral music from all over the world.”

Withington added he was looking forward to sharing unique New Zealand music with the audiences.

New committee chair Tom Koleszar, who returned to his hometown and has taken up singing in his retirement, and his committee members are working closely with Paul Cummings, Kathaumixw artistic director.
“I look forward to hearing great choirs from all over the world, and meeting conductors and singers from many different backgrounds,” said Koleszar.

Cummings is close to announcing the complete list of accepted choirs, but a key one has already been determined; Novel Voz from Cuba will be artists in residence.

“My goal was to have 20 choirs from out of town; 10 from overseas and 10 from North America,” said Cummings. “Once all is settled, we will have achieved that and then some. Overall, the festival looks very, very healthy.”

Counting up all the choir members coming, Cummings said he will have hit a target that matches Kathaumixw’s tagline of “a thousand voices; a single passion.”

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