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The story behind one of our most powerful programmes yet

Kantos Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director Ellie Slorach guides us through the story behind one of our most powerful programmes yet, ahead of their live concert at The Stoller Hall this month.

What can audiences expect from a Kantos performance?

You can expect top quality a capella choral music spanning the centuries – everything from Hildegard von Bingen of the 12th century through to world première performances of brand new music. You can expect elements of improvisation from the singers and seamless transitions between pieces to keep you immersed in the musical experience; we like to cross from genre to genre and style to style without a break and perhaps without you noticing at first! We like to tell a story with our performances, using the choral music as a vehicle to make you feel something or to make a statement.

Who are the musicians in the choir?

The musicians in the choir are professional vocalists living in the North of the UK, mostly in Manchester. As well as being excellent choral singers, they are creative performers who approach Kantos performances with incredible energy and positivity: singing with raw emotion, throwing themselves into improvisation, taking our audience on a journey.

How do you select the programme and what will you be performing?

Programmes can take a lot of time to develop; often hearing a single piece or talking to another artist about a piece or a composer can spark a whole programme idea. Similarly, a visit to a potential performance venue can also spark a programme idea. After the idea is there, it takes a lot of research and plenty of listening to build the full performance. In this case, for ‘In Beauty May I Walk’, the title of the programme is taken from a piece by Jonathan Dove. I was drawn to a programme celebrating all things beautiful in nature whilst simultaneously breaking the beauty with pieces that told of the devastating human impact on the climate. So, this programme kind of works in waves; building up beauty upon beauty upon beauty and then dropping a devastating message of our destruction before re-building again. In this way, it’s intended to be a positive message that focuses on what is beautiful and therefore, why we should work harder to fight climate change.

Why is choral music still relevant today?

Choral music is only relevant today if we keep it relevant to today. I believe that by choosing repertoire thoughtfully, thinking about every aspect of a choral performance, and constantly asking questions, we can create performances of choral music that can engage any listener, whether they are already a keen classical music fan or a brand new audience member:

‘Why this piece? – What is it saying within this programme? How does it work with the repertoire either side of it?’ ‘Where should the choir stand for that piece? Does it make sense to stand in ‘typical’ choir formation for this piece? Is it better to stand in a different formation for this piece?’ ‘Does this concert programme have something to say or something to make our listeners feel?’

Favourite musician or composer?

It changes frequently….! At the moment, it’s Hildegard von Bingen, Pérotin and The Proclaimers, but that’ll be different by the time of our performance!

You can book tickets here to Kantos Chamber Choir on Sunday 19 June.

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