It’s not often that a high school choir takes on Vivaldi.
But the Oxford Reformed Christian School Chamber Choir was ready, their director said.
“I have trust in their ability. They have proven themselves over the last few years,” said conductor Johann Van Ittersum.
That’s why he tasked the choir with learning Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, a 12-movement piece that is more often a goal for professional and adult choirs.
And the students in the choir said though the piece is difficult, it’s also a rewarding one to sing.
“It’s challenging but it’s so, so beautiful,” said Grade 11 student Lydia Byl. “And it’s a work of art. It’s pretty great to be performing something like that.”
The choir was eager to take on the challenge, their director said.
“There is a really healthy, exciting attitude towards music in this school. It was just sort of a logical next step to tackle something bigger,” said Van Ittersum.
The choir is made up 25 students, many from the senior grades, but a few Grade 9s and 10s, too.
Ordinarily the group is used to the sopranos and altos singing parts together, while bass and tenor groups are paired on another part.
But with Vivaldi’s Gloria, each chorus must step up to create four very distinct parts that come together to form an amazing piece.
“We had to learn how to sing better, individually,” Byl said. “It’s a growing thing, too, because you learn how to sing in a more classical voice, rather than the more pop-y voice that we might be used to.”
The undertaking has required lots of practice – both at school and at home.
The choir started rehearsing Vivaldi's Gloria before the Christmas holidays.
“The students have been very good about studying their parts at home. I can hear them hum their lines in the hallway, so that’s just really gratifying to me,” Van Ittersum added.
And with just a few weeks left before the choir’s public performance, the piece is coming together.
“We know the basic stuff, now it’s just about perfecting our mistakes,” said Grade 12 student Wilena Veldhuizen. “It’s really exciting.”
Van Ittersum said that’s the beauty of teaching a piece like this one, despite its challenges.
“It’s quite significant that Vivaldi’s Gloria is over 400 years old, but yet it remains timeless for 21st century students.”
And he has no doubt the choir will be ready in time for their big performance.
“There is always a bit of risk involved, but I think they’re going to peak at just the right moment,” he said.
“We’re almost there.”
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IF YOU GO
When: April 22 and 23
Where: Knox Presbyterian Church, 59 Riddell St., 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 at the door or from Oxford Reformed Christian School