A local choir is paying tribute to Canada for the country’s 150th, but you won’t find the Happy Birthday Song in the program.
“This is not your average choir concert,” says Lena Palermo, of her first concert as artistic director for the Peninsula Singers. “At some points there is choreography.”
Palermo comes to the Peninsula Singers with an accomplished background in award-winning choral directing and musical conducting, along with choreography. She is also a professional musical theatre performer. In January of this year, Palermo succeeded the Peninsula Singers’ Glenda Korella.
The upcoming show, “O Canada! A Celebration of Our Nation,” is to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial.
“We want to put on a diverse program that celebrates all of the parts of Canada, from east to west, and celebrate the people of Canada – from First Nations, to immigrants, to everyone else,” Palermo says.
Although Palermo is excited about directing, it didn’t come without its share of challenges.
“People are really passionate about their country and about their story being told in a correct way. Not everyone sees it the same way. The passion that it brings out is interesting,” she says.
To showcase Canada’s multiculturalism there will be dancers from Veselka Ukrainian dance troupe and Shan-e-Punjab troupe.
And fittingly, the music selection for the show is almost as diverse as Canadian citizens.
“One of the challenges with choral music is finding songs for choirs. Not all Canadian music is set up so you can do a choral arrangement of it, so that was limiting,” Palermo says. “I was trying to keep the program diverse; it was difficult. The whole song selection process is not easy – you want something uptempo, something pretty, something really descriptive, but don’t want them all to sound the same.”
Music will range from Victoria composer Tobin Stokes’ “Chant and Peace Song” to a 27th-century song sung by Samuel de Champlain’s men. Other music includes Gordon Lightfoot, David Foster, Michael Buble and Joni Mitchell. And of course, you can’t celebrate Canada through song without throwing on some shades and performing Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway.” This number being a metaphor for the musical journey the choir plans to take across Canada.
Along with the Peninsula Singers will be Palermo’s 40-voice Cordova Bay Elementary School Choir performing a song about ice cream from the iconic series Anne of Green Gables. They will also join in for some inter generational songs with the Peninsula singers.
“There will be voices 8 to 80 years old, which is also a nice representation of our country,” Palermo says.
The director says her students, clad in Canada’s white and red and waving mini flags, are excited to take the stage with the well-seasoned Peninsula Singers.
The show will be hosted by MC Jim Kingham, or “Sir John A. Macdonald” and in between choir performances there’s a scheduled bit by special guest artist Steve Ivings, actor, singer and comedian.
“I’m looking forward to seeing this all come together,” Palermo says. “The transition between directors has happened in a positive way. The group has really responded well to me and my direction and welcomed me in a positive way.”
The three upcoming performances are at the Mary Winspear Centre:
• Friday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. (sold out)
Proceeds from the show support the Saanich Peninsula Hospital’s music therapy program. For more, call 250-656-0275 or visit marywinspear.ca.