Local choirs to perform
 at Cayman Arts EXTRA

The second event in this year’s Cayman Arts EXTRA Festival 2011 is a collaboration among the Cayman National Choir, the University College of the Cayman Islands Choir and the Cayman Youth Choir, sponsored by Butterfield.

The performance will be at 7.30pm on Saturday, 26 March, at First Baptist Church.

This is a unique chance for Cayman to showcase the most accomplished young singers on the Island.

Each choir will perform its own smaller piece, then joining with the Cayman National Orchestra on John Rutter’s Requiem, which is a wonderful yet complex work for choirs.

Sue Horrocks, who is the principal conductor of the Cayman National Choir, will be conducting the performance.

“We’re all doing the African pieces together, and then they’re each going to showcase a piece of their own, then I’m conducting Rutter’s Requiem with all three choirs and the national orchestra,” Horrocks said.

Requiem gives the choirs a chance to broaden their singing experiences, as well as introducing them to a new language.

“To be singing something in Latin… is something novel for them,” said Glen Inanga, UCCI’s conductor and the festival’s artistic director. “And singing something of such magnitude is, again, a novelty for them.”

Daniel Twist, Cayman Youth Choir’s conductor, said he is excited about this and the experience.

“The aim of the choir is to expose the young people to as diverse a range and styles of music as is possible.”

Developing a style

“The choir is over 30 years old, and I took over as choir director in 1998. And I’ve been directing it ever since,” Sue Horrocks said. And she didn’t stop there.

“I decided that we needed our own orchestra, because traditionally the choir used to bring down musicians from Miami to assist with anything they were doing,” she said.

“And I thought we don’t need people from Miami. There’s enough people, talented people, to do our own. So I founded the Cayman National Orchestra.”

She received permission from the Governor to use the Cayman National name. And the Governor came to the inaugural concert seven years ago.

The Cayman National Choir is a community choir, so she doesn’t audition.

“Anybody who enjoys singing can join. You don’t have to have a particularly good voice. You don’t have to read music,” she said.

“In fact, a lot of my choir don’t read music. It is a community choir, and as such, I’m not going to turn anyone away.

“The standards we reach are still remarkably high compared to similar choirs in other parts of the world,” she added.

Horrocks said everyone works incredibly hard.

“They rehearse every Monday evening, and although they might be tired after a working day, they go away far more energized then when they came.”

As a musician and teacher, Horrocks sees one of the main goals of the National Choir is to try to have the performers sing in a variety of styles and different genres of music, not just classical.

“I think we should sing all different styles. We want a versatile choir singing different things for different occasions. And it’s healthy for them to have a rich diet of different types of music for themselves and to expand their repertoire,” she said.

“So we do things like Whiter Shade of Pale, we did some ABBA, we’ve done some African, and some jazzy pieces,” she said. “I like to experiment. And that involves singing in a different way, using a different type of voice and different interpretations.”

Twist also sees his group as versatile.

“Whilst in the best tradition of music education our approach is choral or classical, our repertoire can be considered to be modern,” he said.

Horrocks said the mixture of styles challenges her students to get the best performance out them, and it challenges the audience.

“We don’t want to only be singing old favourites,” Horrocks said.”

Successful performance

Twist added that a successful choir takes a mixture of two essential ingredients.

“A shared passion for music and exposure to singers of experience and expertise,” he said. “Whilst the choral opportunities are limited on our fair Island, we are lucky to have a range of singing abilities within the choir and across an age range of eight to 18. All that then remains is a frequent exposure to music and hours of singing. Like any instrument, practice and more practice is the only way to become confident with your voice and train it to lend itself to many styles.”

As the festival’s artistic director, Glen Inanga is very excited about this year’s performances.

“We have a wonderful lineup. It captures the same thing that our mission is interested in, showcasing quality as well as education for our local community as well as our young children,” he said.

“It’s going to be a wonderful collaboration, and we are incredibly grateful for Butterfield’s support in sponsoring this event, as well as for the huge effort that all three choirs are putting into making it a memorable evening of singing,” Inanga said.