Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra Chorus

Portrait of Handel, by Balthasar Denner from Wikipedia

The Saskatoon Symphony had, for a number of years, contracted with local choirs to perform some of the more expected works of choral repertoire. One of these would be Handel’s Messiah. A few years ago the SSO decided that they wanted to go a different way and developed an auditioned choir for some concerts with choral works in their season. In 2014 the SSO Chorus, under the direction of Guest Conductor and Choir Master Duff Warkentin, was prepared for the performance at Knox United Church with a following afternoon sing along performance at the same venue.

Seeing that I was going to be singing in Saskatchewan in 2015 I looked up the SSO schedule to find out if they did do Messiah on an annual basis – as the ESO does in Edmonton.  Since I have sung Messiah in concert form 7 times and twice as a sing along – I thought I would see what it would take to be considered for the “auditioned choir” this year.

Well, there was an online signup that you really had to look for on the SSO website.  It came out in mid September and the auditions were for October.  All potential singers were asked to prepare number 7 from the Messiah in their own voice part – And he shall purify.  The one audition would be good for both concerts in the season – Handel’s Messiah on December 11 & 12 as well as Vivaldi’s Gloria on Valentine’s Day.

I was just getting into the groove on the Saskatoon Chamber Singers Repertoire but did find time to go through the piece a few times.  Found out that bit where the basses tend to waffle around measures 9 & 10 going into the first ‘the sons of Levi’ coming out of the 16th note run.  Then the second place we tend to waffle at measure 28, again coming out of a 16th note run into a different rhythm for ‘the sons of Levi’.  Not to mention measure 50 where I just noticed last year that I had been singing a wrong note, going up to a F instead of going down to a D – ah well the joys of deconstructing a piece you thought you knew so well.

So along comes the audition evening.  I work late as my office is only about 4 blocks from the SSO offices.  I show up in advance of my timing and wait while a couple of Soprano’s are put through their paces.  Then there is a gap as the person scheduled before me could not make it and I am up.  There was a pianist provided Duff, Erik Paetkau and I believe Mark Turner the SSO’s Executive Director.  As an auditionee you were asked to sing parts of the piece which may have to be repeated a couple of times.  Duff made note that I was looking up through the sing and then asked me if I had ever sung it as a Tenor. I waited a few weeks before receiving an email from Mark a week ago welcoming me to the SSO Chorus – unfortunately it did not say if I was coming in as a Tenor or a Bass……

That being said – I am now looking at a pretty big week in December.  SSO Chorus rehearsal on Sunday afternoon – when my wife will be at Pipe Band practice, Tuesday evening with the SCS, Wednesday and Thursday evenings with the SSO, a Friday evening performance and a Saturday afternoon performance with the SSO followed by a Saturday evening dress rehearsal with SCS for a Sunday afternoon and evening concert.

Regardless, I get to sing all of Messiah again, let me tell you it is a great sing and a wonderful piece of music that never seems to grow old.


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