At last, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vashon Island Chorale will take the stage again at Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and again at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10.
The title of their concert, “Never Abandon Song,” is derived from a phrase from composer Giselle Wyers’ songs, and the Chorale will be performing selections from Wyers and Bronwyn Edwards, both female composers local to the area.
The Chorale plans to perform Wyers’ “And All Shall Be Well” and Edwards’ “Vashon Suite: No Bridges” at their upcoming concert.
Both Wyers and Edwards will be present to speak at the performance, with Edwards speaking about “No Bridges” on Saturday and Wyers speaking about “And All Shall Be Well” with Artistic Director Dr. Gary D. Cannon in a pre-concert lecture.
“We decided to bring back two large works that were written for us in the pre-COVID days,” said Cannon. “Bronwyn Edwards’ suite ‘No Bridges’ celebrates many aspects of Vashon culture. The central message of Giselle Wyers’ ‘And All Shall Be Well’ is the legacy that each of us leaves, an especially appropriate theme for these days.”
Wyers, located in Seattle, is the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Professor of Choral Music at the University of Washington (UW). She also conducts the University’s Chorale and teaches both undergraduate and graduate classes in choral conducting and music education at UW.
Of special note, 16 chorale members, including Cannon, will travel to New York City to perform “And All Shall Be Well” at Carnegie Hall in May as part of a 75-member choir.
Edwards, also located in Seattle, is the Music Director at Fauntleroy Church. She has previously written music for the Chorale’s 25th anniversary, which premiered at Benaroya Hall. In addition to her work at Fauntleroy Church, Edwards is also the director of the South Seattle College Community Choir.
The last time the Chorale took the stage was back in December 2019, and the Chorale had hoped there would be a chance to perform sooner rather than later.
“There were several times we thought the ‘COVID retreat’ would allow us to sing again,” said Chorale President Jo Ann Bardeen. “Then Delta came, and then Omicron happened and hopes were dashed more than several times.”
The group is smaller than it was in 2019 – at that time, the Chorale had 65 members and a youth choir. Now, it boasts 44 singers who have been at work since Feb. 15 preparing “Never Abandon Song” for concert goers.
Chorale continues to take extra safety measures, including wearing specially designed “singer’s masks,” which are triple-layered and allow for additional room for breathing while singing. Chorale members also sit farther apart from one another than usual.
“It has been a great pleasure to be together again,” said Bardeen.
Chorale members are also eager to be back together in rehearsal and on stage once more.
For soprano section leader Shannon Flora, being part of the Chorale gives an opportunity to do something “bigger than yourself.” She also enjoys being around others who enjoy singing and loves the performance aspect of Chorale. Overall, Flora has been involved with Chorale for about ten years in total.
Marita Ericksen, who has been involved with Chorale since 1990 and directed the group for two seasons, is excited to be back performing the Chorale’s “excellent repertoire,” which includes classical selections and the selections from local composers, like Wyers and Edwards.
She also applauded the work of Cannon in preparing the Chorale for their upcoming performances.
“Gary’s an amazing conductor,” said Ericksen in a phone interview. “[He] has really helped to improve the sound of the Chorale.”
Ericksen described the Chorale as a “wonderful organization,” and said her favorite part of the group is the chance to make a “deeper connection” with fellow members.
“Kudos to Jo Ann Bardeen and the Board to getting us back together,” said Ericksen.
Note: Tickets, $5 to $20, are available for purchase at vashoncenterforthearts.org. Proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative test is required. Masks are required while not consuming concessions.