the Unison Canadian Choral Festival
The Unison Canadian Choral Festival 2010 “Be Fabulous in Winnipeg”, hosted by the Rainbow Harmony Project (RHP), takes place May 21 – 24. Choral delegates from across the country will descend on downtown Winnipeg and join voices at historical Knox United Church.
GLBTT* choruses gather every four years to share voices at Unison. Vic Hooper, Artistic Director of RHP, says that Unison 2010 is one of the largest choral festivals to be held in Manitoba in over 20 years. The event has been four years in the making since the last Unison in Vancouver (2006), where members of the RHP Chorus decided they wanted to organize the next festival. As Hooper, explains, “The vote was unanimously in favour, which represents the can-do attitude our members have.”
More detailed planning started over a year ago as RHP established a dedicated sub-committee, which meets regularly to plan and organize the choral festival. Debbie Maslowsky, an event planner was hired and is an invaluable member of the planning team. Since March, the subcommittee began meeting bi-weekly to ensure all details have been accounted for. Volunteers have been actively fundraising, promoting, scheduling, planning concerts and receptions and organizing registration procedures. Still more volunteers are needed and RHP is reaching out to local GLBTT* groups, clubs and businesses to support the festival.
According to Paul Sullivan, who has been with RHP since its beginning and is the current President of the choir’s Board of Directors, an event like this has never taken place in Winnipeg. He says, “The Unison team is doing our best to include as many GLBTT organizations as we can in the planning of the festival in order to spread the “karma”. “
The operating budget for Unison is over $100,000, which comes mostly from registration fees, sponsorship, advertising sales and donations. Paul Sullivan adds, “To put on a classy festival like this takes money.“
All of the behind the scenes hard work will pay off come May long weekend. Just imagine, 15 choirs and 500 singers performing on stage over four days. Vic Hooper says, “I can’t think of a better way to express inner and outer feelings about almost any emotional experience than through the universal language of music, especially singing. Unison Festival provides a unique opportunity for choristers from across Canada to share their music with each other and our local community.
Opening night on May 21 features the Be Fabulous in Winnipeg concert. Attend and you will hear the magical sounds of the RHP and special performances from singer-songwriter Deborah Romeyn and Edward Ledson, a popular fixture in the local arts scene. The concert will also honour five Manitoban’s who have made major contributions to the GLBTT communities nationally.
Paul Sullivan suggests that the opening night concert may just be one of the most exciting evenings Winnipeg’s queer community has ever seen. He says, “We are planning on an audience of 1,000 people who will be either queer or very supportive. The mood in the room will be unlike anything we’ve experienced in this city. I think that alone will be a huge morale booster for our community. RHP has been working very hard as a chorus to present the most dynamic and entertaining shows we’ve ever put together. I really think the audience will be wowed.”
Throughout the weekend, the Vancouver Men’s Chorus, Toronto’s Forte, Dartmouth’s The Women Next Door, and Regina’s Prairie Pride Chorus, and others will perform mini-concerts. Vic Hooper anticipates that this will be one of the best parts of the festival. He says, “My favourite part will be the sheer enjoyment of listening to the 30 minute mini performances of each of our visiting choirs. These take place on Saturday afternoon and evening and on Sunday afternoon. What a gift to see and hear so many wonderful GLBTT choirs in one place in the heart of our wonderful city at Knox United Church.”
In addition, three festival choirs will be formed and will perform at the closing celebrations on the final Monday morning. The festival choirs are under the direction of Spencer Duncanson (Winnipeg), Scott Leithead (Edmonton) and Marg Stubington (Ottawa).
Other social events will also be a part of the weekend’s festivities. As Vic Hooper says, “Delegates will also enjoy some Manitoba hospitality with four social functions that will provide plenty of opportunity for singers, conductors, choir board members, friends, spouses and partners to mingle, eat, drink and get to say hi to each other. “
The four events include:
A “Fabulous” Chocolate Fantasy reception primarily for delegates will follow the opening night concert. Afterwards, delegates and fans will meet at Club 200 for an un-official after-party
On Saturday, May 22 a Manitoba Social will take place at Gios. This party is supported by Manitoba Homecoming 2010.
A dinner and dance with an open martini bar takes place at the Delta Hotel on Sunday, May 23 and features Heather Bishop as the keynote speaker.
After closing celebrations on the morning of Monday, May 23, a barbecue lunch is being hosted by Club 200.
When asked what he was most looking forward to from Unison, Paul Sullivan says, “If I had to pick one thing, I would say the Grand Finale of the opening night concert is the thing I am looking forward to the most. It will be a moment in Winnipeg’s queer history that will never be forgotten.”
Vic Hooper adds, “When attending GLBTT choir festivals in the past, I have found myself caught up in an over powering feeling of affirmation and euphoria. I suspect that it will be no different here in Winnipeg.”
With the many events and festivities surrounding the Unison Canadian Choral Festival 2010 “Be Fabulous in Winnipeg” taking place on the May long weekend, you may just be enticed to skip the cottage or camping, stay in town, and mingle with choral delegates while spending some pink money in our great city.
For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, check out www.unisonfestival.ca
– Barbara Abrumchuk is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer. To comment on this or any other article in Outwords, e-mail email@example.com