Working with Choristers – Elise Naccarato

Image of Choral Conductor Elise Naccarato
This Canadian Conductor reveals her sources of musical inspiration

Elise Naccarato is a Canadian conductor behind some truly stunning performances enjoyed by the Singdaptive team.

Elise won the Adjudicator’s Award for best soloist at the Chicago Heritage Music Festival in Chicago (2010),and has sung as a guest soloist with the Hamilton Philharmonic (2015).

Recently Elise represented Canada at the Estonian Song Festival in July of 2019 with 10,000 singers joining together. She has also been nominated for the YWCA Women of Distinction Award as a Pandemic Innovator. 

A favorite quote that inspires you

“Though she be little, she is fierce” – Shakespeare. My nickname as a kid was ‘mighty shrimp’ because I am ‘vertically challenged’ but strong willed, stubborn and definitely strummed to my own drum. This quote sums that up in a way that resonates with my adult self.  

Quote in Elise Naccarato's office: And though she be but little, she is fierce.

A key turning point in your work with choristers?

When my mom literally forced me to go watch a Hamilton Children’s Choir (HCC) rehearsal. I was a really shy and quiet kid and ironically, hated the idea of singing in a choir -my mom even bribed me with hot chocolate! From the moment I saw their Artistic Director, Zimfira Poloz work, I was hooked  and knew I wanted to be part of this community.

Any social media “fails” or “successes” for you and your choir?

One of Myriad’s successes was a virtual choir project we did of Canadian folk trio, The Wailin’ Jennys, One Voice. It had thousands of views in just a few days and was picked up Viking River Cruises. We did this project right at the start of the pandemic and although it is definitely not our best singing, it came from a place of honesty. I believe something about the videos raw sensibility is the reason it went viral.

An important lesson you’ve learned in terms of vocal health and/or technique?

Every voice is unique. Even in the choral setting, it’s so important to try and address individual vocal technique to help every singer sing to the best of their ability. The more confident the individuals are, the better the total choir sound. 

An artist who especially inspires Elise Naccarato? 

Sergei Rachmaninov certainly holds a special place in my heart. Although he has written quite a bit of choral music that I love, my favourite piece by him is actually an art song for solo voice – the English translation is Oh Never Sing to Me Again. It’s amazing and not a piece that is heard often. 

What is it about his music that inspires you?

The grandeur, breadth and richness of which all his music is written is magic. Even his most ‘simple’ compositions have great emotional impact making them so easy to sing or play.  I have so many composers and genres that I like to listen to depending on how I am feeling, however, Rachminov’s music transcends all those emotional barriers. 

What do you do that “works” on social media?

Oh, social media! I wish I wasn’t addicted! Myriad’s audience likes getting to know who the choir is – what we are up to, and the behind the scenes of what happens in rehearsals. I like sharing this content…it feels like we are meaningfully engaging with our audiences in a way that is authentic to the spirit of the choir.

What are you currently working on in terms of your music-career?

In this challenging time, I have shifted my focus to learning more about the ‘business of music’ – including starting my MBA. 

What do you feel is the relationship between business and music for choirs?

I truly believe 80% of the success of an organization lies in its ability to operate – its financial health, ability to meet and shift with market demands, and the strength of the Board of Directors. 

An object (at home) that inspires you in your musical work

I have a framed photo that was taken of me and my mentor, Robert Cooper as we deliberate ‘something’ on the stage of one Toronto’s foremost concert halls (Roy Thompson Hall). This always reminds me that I would not be where I am without the people who have pushed me to keep learning, striving for higher and have shown an unwavering belief in me. 

Elise Naccarato
Elise’s photo of Robert sits between her baton (a gift from Robert) and her Estonian gnome with the red emblem – a gift from her Estonian choir

What is one video of your music that was particularly easy (or hard!) to complete – and what made it so?

The pandemic has been my first foray into the world of music videos so in that regard, they have all been ‘hard’ and a learning experience. Having to combat ever changing COVID restrictions has been part of the challenge, however, the main lesson I have learned is just how much time they take to produce. The results are well worth it, in my opinion. 

What performance would you single out as a “turning point” & why?

In February 2020, Myriad had its first full length live concert. It was not perfect by any stretch, however, it was the first time I as an Artistic Director had seen a concert through from inception to realization. We had gone from just doing small 20-minute guest appearances to now being the only act. The pandemic forced us online just two weeks later, however, without that concert, I don’t think the organization would have survived the transition to online. It gave us the fuel we needed to make big organizational changes and the understanding we had something really special that was worth fighting for.

What were one or two critical steps you took to reach larger audiences with your music?

The choristers are actively engaged in promoting our concerts to their friends, family and our community, leading to organic audience growth. I also feel we are still young enough as a choir that we have that ‘newness’ factor. I think that leaving people wondering “what will they do next?” is key to holding retention and also engaging with new audiences as we explore different ideas that might better resonate with a different group of people. Time will tell if we’re onto something.

What are some of your career dreams/goals?

One of my lofty dreams is to change the way the Western world view the choral arts. 

What is one way you’d like to achieve this? 

I think that viewing a choral concert should be just as enticing as a pop music concert – entertaining, artistic, innovative and authentic to the art. This all takes time, immense people power, and financial resources, however, I believe it’s possible in my lifetime to see this change. It will take advocacy at many levels, however, if we don’t start to make a change now, when will be a good time? Now is as good as any! 

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