Cal Poly music faculty will join 20 other women as members of the Canzona Women’s Ensemble in performing “Magnificat” this weekend.
The song, by Christine Donkin, has been sung countless times by other groups, but not in the same tune the members of the Canzona Women’s Ensemble will perform it in. The women will sing a slightly sadder overtone than more conventional versions, professor of music at Cal Poly and member of Canzona Meredith Brammeier said.
One of Canzona’s founders, Cricket Handler, said the piece makes the listener feel like they’re lost in a labyrinth.
“The song makes you feel as though you’re in a giant maze and all the different voices of the choir are singing their lines at different times,” Handler said. “We will probably surround the audience for this one.”
The concert will be split in two themes with the first half of the performance focusing heavily on religious music. During the second half, the women will perform music heavily focused on family and feminism, Canzona co-founder Jill Anderson said.
Anderson said the two themes shape the performance so it isn’t centered around the holiday season.
“It’s not a Christmas concert per se,” Anderson said. “We are doing the 23rd Psalm by Schubert, a Gregorian Chant and an Ave Maris Stella.”
In the choir community, popular texts are often performed by multiple groups and become familiar to singers and audiences, Brammeier said.
The challenge for choirs becomes keeping the choral music contemporary and the audience interested.
“Some of these texts have been sung many times,” Brammeier said. “It’s the job of the composers to keep the pieces fresh and to make them come alive.”
But the sound of a musical piece doesn’t rely on just the composer. The composition of a women-only choir has an effect on the sound of the performed pieces as well, Handler said.
“You’re going to get a different tone and color to the music with an all women’s choir,” Handler said. “There is something unique about women singing and working together. Part of our mission is to encourage younger women to continue singing their entire lives. For me, there is something very special about all women’s repertoire.”
Being an all women’s choir also gives Canzona the opportunity to perform songs most other groups aren’t able to perform, Handler said.
The second half of the evening will begin with a set of pieces all having to do with family and continue with pieces heavily inspired by feminism; two of which — “Ain’t I a woman?” and “The Stove” — were inspired by a workshop in Los Angeles, Anderson said.
“We just liked (the pieces) very much, and the audience seemed to enjoy it a lot,” Anderson said. “We thought that putting the two together made a sort of feminist statement. Possibly, to an extent people expect a women’s ensemble to feature some music by female composers. And yes, I think it is worth a reminder that women did not always have the rights we have now.”
The song “Ocean Country” was written by Brammeier herself and won the California American Choral Directors Association Choral Composition Competition Award in 2002. Brammeier said she was inspired by the beauty of the California countryside depicted in the text.
Anderson said she expects many members of the San Luis Obispo choral community to come to the performance. There is an entire community of singers in San Luis Obispo, many of which have connections to the members of Canzona, she said.
“This town has a really good history of choral music,” Anderson said. “In our high school it’s a very ‘in’ thing. We have that at our colleges as well. We also have the Central Coast children’s choir so people are starting singing at a very young age.”
The Canzona Women’s Ensemble will perform Sunday, Nov. 7, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the San Luis Obispo United Methodist Church.