Tone Cluster is on the move, and the group’s taking a little bit of Canada with it.
In July the choir jets off for Denver, Colorado, to take part in the five-day Gala Choruses Festival. Held every four years, the Gala Festival brings together international queer singing groups for a series of concerts held in state-of-the-art venues. With approximately 130 participating choirs, it is the largest event of its kind in the world.
This year’s festival will see the choral groups performing in three different venues in Denver; each group is given 30 minutes to show what they’ve got. For its set, Tone Cluster will perform a fully Canadian repertoire from a number of composers. “Usually in these festivals, it’s more like a showcase than a theme performance,” says outreach coordinator Gianluca Ragazzini.
The pieces have been selected to show off the choir’s vocal chops while giving audiences a taste of the diversity of Canadian music. The set list includes “Yanaway Heyona,” a traditional Iroquois song; “Gate Gate,” a musical arrangement of a Buddhist mantra composed and arranged by award-winning BC composer Brian Tate; and Ron Sexsmith’s “God Loves Everyone,” arranged by Vancouver Men’s Chorus composer Willi Zwozdesky.
The choir will also premiere two original pieces commissioned from venerated Saskatchewan composer David L McIntyre. “Green” explores the love of nature, while “Yes” tells the story of two gay men living with AIDS. In addition to its solo concert, Tone Cluster has also been selected to take part in Songs of the Soul, a special evening concert that explores the connections between music, spirituality and sexuality.
Planning a trip like this is no small feat, according to Ragazzini, who says the group has been preparing for almost two years. About 20 choir members will fly to Denver, a relatively small group in comparison to some of the larger choirs, which will take closer to 60 members. “Sometimes small choirs are very interesting to listen to,” Ragazzini explains. “They have an interesting sound texture. Also, in a small choir every voice is important.”
Tone Cluster will be the only choir from Ottawa at the festival. “There’s an amazing diversity of music that we get to experience by being there,” Ragazzini says. “We get to perform in world-class venues — it’s such an exciting place to perform. It’s just a fantastic experience, really.”
Before the choir takes off in July, Ottawa folks will have a chance to hear some of the songs it’s working on. The group’s Denver Bound concert will feature an extended set list, as well as guest appearances by the Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus and In Harmony Women’s Chorus. Along with Tone Cluster, these choirs will be the official hosts of Unison — a Canadian queer choral festival coming to Ottawa in 2014.