March 2002
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Provincial Honour Choir Judged To Be Great Experience
By Jenessa Rempel, Grade 12, Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler, MB

Singing is the forte for the students in the Provincial Honour Choirs of Manitoba. Provincial Honour Choir is an auditioned group of students, who meet together for one weekend in February to practice new music and then perform it in a final performance. The big concert this year was held at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg on Sunday, February 26.

Admission to the Honour Choir group is based on auditions and the competition is tough. Only about half the students who try out actually get in. For the auditions, students are tested on their upper and lower range and do a short piece of sight singing and some phrase sing-backs (repeating a short musical phrase by memory). They also sing unaccompanied a selection of their own choice and are evaluated on their pitch, vocal quality, and expression. The successful participants are chosen by a committee based on the audition scores and the provincial regions which they represent.

Practices for all the Honor Choir groups were held on Friday, February 24, from 7 to 10pm; Saturday, February 25, from 9am to 6pm; and on Sunday, February 26, from 1 to 2pm. The practices are led by conductors chosen by the Provincial Honours Choir Committee because of their amazing choirs and/or their professional reputation. The conductors this year were Victor Pankratz, Rick Heppner-Mueller, and Michele Chyzyk.

Four Honour Choirs were involved this year. A Junior choir was made up of 70 students from grades 7 to 8. An Intermediate choir had also had 70 students, representing grades 9 to 10. There were 70 people as well in the Senior choir, covering grades 11 to 12. A girls? choir was made up of 40 young people from grades 11 to 12.

The repertoire for the Honour choirs is chosen by the conductors and covers a wide range of music. They may vary from a madrigal or baroque piece to something more contemporary, from a gospel song or spiritual to a piece that is totally avant garde.

Although the weekend cost participants $40 for registration (and extra for their lunches and suppers), it was a great learning experience and something they will never forget. Loretta Thorleifson, music teacher at GVC, says: "This is a great experience and a confidence builder for anyone who is involved. It's very demanding in terms of focus and attention span, so it is not for everybody, but people who go usually have many wonderful memories."

During the weekend meeting, students could stay at home, lodge at a friend's house, or be billeted with an Honours committee or choir member. It was great way to meet people and create new friendships. For Laurel Schellenberg, a participating G.V.C. student, the Provincial Choir experience provided a valuable social dimension. "It's a blast!" she declares. "A great chance to get to know people with similar interests."