The Aeolian Singers explore truth with newly commissioned music from three Canadian women composers

The Halifax chorus presents Veritas: Seeking Truth, Sharing Wisdom over three evenings

Halifax's The Aeolian Singers opens its 2020-2021 season with trio of concerts featuring newly commissioned music.
Halifax's The Aeolian Singers opens its 2020-2021 season with trio of concerts featuring newly commissioned music.

Halifax’s The Aeolian Singers will open its 45th anniversary season with Veritas: Seeking Truth, Sharing Wisdom, a program of newly commissioned music by three Canadian women composers spread over three evenings.

Taking the show’s title from the Latin word for “truth,” the concerts demonstrate just how widely truth is open to interpretation, with each composer rendering the theme differently.

“All of the music talks to the concept of truth, how we recognize our own truth and how we find truth in others in a world where there is so much skepticism and fakes news,” says Aeolian’s artistic director Heather Fraser.

In Frances Farrell’s A Rose by Any Other Name, the Halifax composer draws inspiration from the rose as a symbol of truth. In contrast, Quebec composer Marie-Claire Saindon examines truth in the era of fake news, anti-vaxxers and prominent politicians in her piece Flat Earth. Rounding out the trio of concerts, Yellowknife composer Carmen Braden examines truth through a child’s eyes in Aviva Swims.

While each show will include the choir performing the new works, the programs go beyond the music with the composers themselves leading interactive demonstrations to take audiences behind the music.

“The evenings are really designed to highlight the composer and the composition process,” says Fraser. “I hope people will join us to hear what the composers have to say on this issue but also hear about their creative process and learn about the composition process.”

Originally scheduled to conclude its past season in June, like many arts organizations, The Aeolian Singers found themselves putting plans on hold because of the pandemic.

“It was going to be a full weekend with us bringing the composers here to work with the choir in-person,” says Fraser. “We were going to have workshops and a full two-hour concert with these commissions part of that bigger program.”

“We have these magical pieces of music that fall on our laps and we sing them but very rarely do we get to hear from the composers in this kind of way. I’m really happy to highlight them and their thoughts and bring them to the forefront. I hope other people are interested in that too.” – Heather Fraser

Of course, the pandemic had other things in mind. Coupled with the added challenges of not having its full choir back, a shorter rehearsal time and complications with venues, the decision was made to focus on the commissioned works.

“We decided to park the rest of the program for now and to highlight these three amazing composers and put them at the forefront,” says Fraser.

Fraser continues by saying the decision to present the trio of works over three performances would allow a more in-depth exploration of each. It also provides more context around its theme of truth with what is happening in the world right now.

“Especially with the U.S. election, it’s really relevant right now,” says Fraser. “A lot of people are thinking about it, and it is in everybody’s faces at the moment. This topic, put into musical form, makes it really interesting and thought-provoking but also peace-inducing. It’s really heartening and enlightening and puts a hopeful message and hopeful spin on all of it.”

Now in its 45th season, The Aeolian Singers deals largely in contemporary repertoire, with a focus on Canadian female composers, and touching on current issues and events. Founded in 1976, the choir has established a reputation for its choral singing, touring the UK, Europe and many parts of Canada and receiving top honours at multiple music festivals.

The Aeolian Singers will present Veritas: Seeking Truth, Sharing Wisdom over three evenings with Frances Farrell’s A Rose by Any Other Name on November 14, Marie-Claire Saindon’s Flat Earth on November 29 and Carmen Braden’s Aviva Swims on December 13.

All three events will be live-streamed on Zoom and in-person at St. Andrew’s Church (6036 Coburg Rd, Halifax). Visit aeoliansingers.ca for tickets and more information.