MCA flagship program touting new name held in-person for the first time in three years
After three very long years, Manitoba Choral Association (MCA) once again held our longest-running program for the Manitoba choral community on the weekend of January 27-29! Now in its the 39th year, MB Sings (formerly Provincial Honour Choirs) saw over 200 singers from all over the province and surrounding regions come together in Winnipeg for an inspiring weekend of music and community-building with accomplished and respected conductors from Manitoba and beyond.
“We were so excited to move back to in-person programming this year. 2020 was the last year we were able to hold the annual event, so this has been a long time coming!” said Jenny Steinke-Magnus, MCA’s Executive Director. “The singers were happy too: the excitement in the room at that opening meeting was palpable. Everyone had been looking forward to this for so long.”
It was evident that singers were excited to be back, too: “I like coming [to MB Sings] because its really fun and everyone is really positive,” said one Junior Choir singer. “I enjoy singing with a whole bunch of different people, and seeing what we can put together during a weekend,” said an Adult Choir participant.
This year, MCA welcomed skilled conductors from around the country for the three choirs: Nancy Gomes Fast (Niverville, MB) and Jorrel Camuyong (Winnipeg) directed the Junior Choir (Grades 5-8); Alisa Wiebe (Winnipeg) directed the Senior Choir (Grades 9-12); and Dr. Melissa Morgan (Regina, SK) directed the Adult Choir (ages 18+). Following two days of intensive rehearsals at Gordon Bell High School, the choirs showed off what they had learned to families and friends at the finale concert at Portage Avenue Church.
What’s in a Name?
MCA was pleased this year to unveil a new name for the program: MB Sings. “For some time now, the program had been moving away from being an ‘honour choir’ event,” Steinke-Magnus explained. “Singers hadn’t auditioned for the choirs for some time, and the program has naturally been evolving more recently to become more inclusive, welcoming of singers of all ages, backgrounds, experience, and singing ability.”
The name change from Provincial Honour Choirs to MB Sings was therefore very timely. The new name describes exactly what the program does: literally, it brings Manitobans together to sing, and this is something that singers like about the program. As one Senior Choir singer said, “I love meeting choir people from all around the province.”
Many in the choral community will also remember that “Manitoba Sings!” was MCA’s tagline for many years but was recently retired. The new program name is a meaningful way to honour MCA’s past while moving boldly into the future.
Practise, Practise, Practise
One of the things that is unique about this program is that singers only receive the music on Friday when they arrive, and they have limited time to rehearse before performing the new repertoire on Sunday. Each choir learned, and in some cases, even memorized, four or five pieces within 48 hours. The conductors even challenged the choirs to learn some “choralography” for the finale concert! With singers of all ages and ability levels, this was no small feat! “I’m new to choral music, [and] I learned a lot in the large alto section!” one Adult Choir singer said. “[The experience was] very affirming. I learned importance of reading notes (to blend) and timing.”
Besides rehearsing, the singers had many opportunities over the weekend to get to know each other, eat together, and to enjoy the talent of fellow choristers at “Saturday Night Live”. Indeed, this part of the weekend is a favourite for many singers: “The talent show was super fun!” said a Senior High chorister. And, back by popular demand, this year’s guest singing group that evening was Those Guys, Winnipeg’s own a cappella group.
The weekend finished off with the MB Sings Finale Concert, which boasted an attendance of nearly 500 enthusiastic family and friends. In addition to hearing diverse and engaging music performed by the three choirs, audience members were invited to listen and reflect on an opening song shared by Lakota drummer and singer Jordan Bighorn. The finale concert also saw the premiere of the 2022 Frances Seaton Choral Composition Competition piece, Refraction by Leanne Cooper-Carrier (Winnipeg), performed by Horizon (Winnipeg). We were fortunate that Leanne, as former assistant director of Horizon, was also able to conduct her piece.
In between the music, the audience had opportunity give to MCA’s Program Bursary Fund, which provides financial support to singers who face economic barriers to participating in our programs. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to raise over $800 for this initiative at the concert!
This year was also the first time the concert was livestreamed in addition to being attended in-person. MCA looks forward to offering this option in the future to make concerts and events more accessible to all corners of the province.
Click here to view the concert program, and stay tuned for videos of the performances, to be shared soon!
The Impact of MB Sings
The MB Sings program continues to have a positive impact on singers' lives, and many come back each year because the program gives them the opportunity to express their passion for group singing. One Junior Choir participant said they like coming to MB Sings to “try something new, for fun, and make new friends."
Some singers do not have the opportunity to sing in a choir regularly, so MB Sings is their chance to be part of a choral community: “I went to school for music and miss having opportunities to sing with other who love choral singing,” said one Adult Choir singer. Another said, “I’m no longer a part of a choir and I love to sing but just singing along to the radio doesn’t always cut it.”
Others just enjoy having a space to belong, even for just a weekend: “I get to spend an entire weekend singing with others that love choir,” said one Senior High Choir singer. “It connects me to people who are like me, I feel welcome and loved,” said another.
MCA is thrilled to offer this program to singers in our province, and we look forward to keeping Manitoba “The Singing Province” for years to come!
MCA would like to thank our donors and sponsors who made this year’s MB Sings possible: Philipp Ens / Triple E RV, The Winnipeg Free Press, and Long & McQuade Musical Instruments. We’d also like to thank the MB Sings committee who worked so hard to organize and plan the event, and to all of our weekend volunteers who kept things running smoothly. The weekend went off without a hitch, and we can’t thank you enough for all that you do to keep this 39-year-strong tradition alive!