How does your choir bond as a group?
In rehearsal! Although we take our music-making very seriously, there’s always something funny that happens in the rehearsal process that gets us laughing together. At the first rehearsal of each month we head out to a local restaurant for social time after rehearsal. Then there are those really special times, like recording sessions and tours!
Choir Name: Chor Leoni Men’s Choir
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Style: most would say we’re “classical” but we sing great music wherever it’s found: classical, pop, jazz, folksong!
Number of singers: 60
Find us on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter!
Tell us more about recording and touring:
In our last recording project for “Star of Wonder”, we worked with GRAMMY-award winning producer Steve Barnett and recorded in the storied subterranean Studio One of CBC Vancouver. Those sessions of intense focus, repetition, and music-making really grows the group musically. In a similar way, touring is like travelling with 60 brothers and some of their partners. Those shared experiences of travel and singing in all sorts of locations just intensifies the bonds we feel to each other. It’s an extraordinary feeling.
What was a very special performance and what made it special?
In 2015 we commissioned the renowned Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds to write a major work for us, using texts by the great Canadian poet, Leonard Cohen. The piece is called “Wandering Heart” and is a three-movement, 17-minute long work that is ravishingly beautiful. In 2016, we had the amazing experience of performing “Wandering Heart” in collaboration with Ballet BC for a brand new work by Belgian choreographer Stijn Celis. To actually see a work we’d commissioned become a synthesis of music and movement on stage in front of us as we sang was amazing.
Chor Leoni believes in the transformative power of men singing together, and works hard to create a space where men can be expressive and vulnerable, so emotions are often close to the surface.
An emotional moment in rehearsal?
‘When There Is Peace’ (an oratorio by Zachary Wadsworth) is a collage of Great War-era poetry and found letters of infantrymen, and it is incredibly powerful. The final poem is Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen. At last week’s rehearsal, one of our baritones sang it with tears running down his cheeks.
something you do in rehearsals that surprises new members
One of our new singers, Jonathan Easey, mentioned being surprised at the back-and-forth nature of our rehearsal process: guys in the choir making jokes in response to Erick, and Erick laughing and having a comeback. Jonathan said it makes the rehearsals more collaborative and fun.
A funny moment in rehearsal:
During a rehearsal Erick asked for a more definite glissando from the lower voices. Despite a few attempts, the guys still weren’t giving him exactly what he wanted. In frustration he said, “Stop being Canadian, you’re too polite!” From the baritone section came a plaintively voiced, “Sorry.” Everyone dissolved into laughter!
A turning point in the life of your choir?
Often ensembles falter or dissolve completely when moving from a founder to a successor, but that was not the case with Chor Leoni when we moved from the gifted Diane Loomer, who was at the helm for 20 years, to Erick Lichte! Because of the very strong organisation that Erick inherited, the choir has soared under his leadership. Last season we sang to over 18,000 people!!
A proud moment:
This past July Chor Leoni was invited to prestigious international choral festivals in both Singapore and Bali, winning several gold medals. Plus, we were the first Canadian choir to ever perform in these festivals, and it was an unbelievable experience. What was even better was to see how the guys enjoyed meeting choirs from the other side of the world, making new Facebook friends, and sharing selfies. It was a proud moment as we acted as ambassadors for Vancouver, our province, and Canada!
Special thanks to Bruce Hoffman for his contributions to this article.
Erick Lichte has been hailed by the Washington Post for the “audacity” of his programming, and noted by the Chicago Tribune for the “meticulous preparation” of his choirs. Under his leadership, Oregon Artswatch has described Chor Leoni as “one of the best male choirs on the continent.” An active clinician, composer, and guest conductor, Lichte is especially passionate in his work to get young men singing and believes in the transformative social power choral music can have on male culture.