Cantares Venezuelan Choir shows what their music is all about
Laughter fills the musty beige room of the Old Y Centre in Calgary as the Cantares Venezuelan Choir takes a break in their rehearsal, bouncing jokes between one another.
After their short break, they focus and become fully committed to the song, standing in unison with eyes set on the conductor, or perhaps cast downwards at their music sheet.
Norka Marcano was a member of a choir in Venezuela and she wanted to create a similar experience in Calgary.
Marcano, along with other Venezuelan friends, decided to try and put together a choir to express Latin American culture.
"Any culture will have some particular things that are good to diffuse, and who could do it? We can do it because it's our music," says Marcano, president of the choir.
"We know it."
The choir was created in June 2010 and this year the choir was invited for the first time to participate in the XV International Choral Kathaumixw.
The annual five-day choral festival takes place in July in Powell River, B.C.
and features concerts, traditional music and vocal competitions.
While the repertoire has changed with time, the choir has had people from other nationalities join.
The main purpose still remains to express the Latin American culture through music for others to experience.
Since 2010, the choir has attended several events and local festivals including those from the Alberta Choral Federation.
"I think festivals in general are very good for a choir to consolidate and to have the choir experience," Marcano says. "You meet people from everywhere and you really feel how being in a choir is like a family.
"It's also going to be good for everyone in the festival to have different rhythms and cultures."
Marcano says that roughly 60 per cent of the songs in their current repertoire are part of Venezuelan folklore and the rest are folk music from other parts of Latin America.
Juan Sosa, choir conductor, says that although he prefers songs that are a little bit faster, they try as a group to keep a balanced repertoire and combine different rhythms.
Sosa says that when choosing repertoire for the choir, he tries to keep a balance of "sabor" — the flavour and rhythm of Latin American music.
One of the choir members, María Esther Fernández, hasn't had any professional vocal training, but she says singing in the choir is her way to relax.
"It's an experience that I can't express with words," she says.
"It's something that you feel and enjoy."
Fernández says that it adds to the excitement when people who haven't heard Latin American music before listen to them and react positively.
Fernández's 16-year-old son, Benjamín Morante, is a baritone in the choir who recently joined.
He says he enjoys singing in Spanish because the songs are more upbeat and that having a Latin American choir in Calgary is important.
"That way we can show Calgary about the Latin culture and show them that we can be so much fun and different," Morante says.
In order to raise funds for its participation in the international festival, Cantares Venezuelan Choir will have its first Gala concert on April 28.
Anyone is welcome to attend.
"I think it's very important for us to share our beliefs and our culture because it fosters diversity," Sosa says.
"We live in a very diverse city and that's the main idea for us – to make sure that we teach them what we got and we also learn from the Canadian culture at the same time."
- By Sofia Lugo