Gleaming, glowing, iridescent: all words to describe Lady Cove Women’s Choir, from its stage presence and costumes to its music and voices.
When it comes to the choir’s success over the past 10 years, Lady Cove is a glimmering beam of light among the choral world, both locally and around the world.
Named after the Trinity Bay community and started in 2003, Lady Cove has been a standard participant in Festival 500 international choir festival, held in this province every two years.
The choir was awarded first prize in the equal music category in 2006 and in the contemporary music category in 2008 for its performances at the CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs, and released a self-titled CD, which was nominated for the 2006 MusicNL award for Classical Album of the Year.
Lady Cove — whose patron is Canadian ballerina Karen Kain — took first place in the women’s choir category at the 2008 Béla Bartók New Music Competition in Hungary, where it was the only Canadian choir invited to take part.
Last year, Lady Cove was the only Canadian adult choir and one of only 25 choirs from around the world invited to participate in the ninth World Symposium on Choral Music in Argentina.
The women have also won in their category in the European Grand Prix, one of the world’s top choral competitions.
To what do the women credit their relatively quick and vast success?
“I think it’s a combination,” said artistic director Kellie Walsh. “We have a group of people that really are highly skilled and fiercely dedicated. You don’t have to be a professional musician to take part in exceptional music making, and if people are willing to work hard enough and work together, anything, really, is possible.”
Interestingly, Walsh also credits the vulnerability of the women as one of the choir’s strengths.
She tries to draw that out with a group retreat at the beginning of each season: the 50 ladies in the choir, who range in age from 17 to 56, go away together for three days to get to know each other better.
“There’s such strength in being able to share life experiences with people of all generations,” Walsh explained. “I feel that in order for really incredible art-making or singing to be at its finest — and I feel singing is art-making — an artist has to be vulnerable. When you feel comfortable and when you feel that connection with people, you’re able to be most vulnerable.”
It’s not just competitions in which Lady Cove is interested; the members are always intrigued by ways to expose themselves to really high-level choral music-making, and to share cultures and ideas with choirs around the world.
Meeting other singers who are just as enthused as they are about choral music is always exciting for the choir members, Walsh said.
Lady Cove actually has a cultural mandate. The members were asked to present to the International Council for Traditional Music, and they did a multimedia lecture/
recital that used song, dance and spoken word to explore how choirs are becoming an important vehicle for preserving and passing on traditions.
“I kind of think we have an obligation to do that, as an arts group,” Walsh said.
That’s not to say the choir performs only culturally significant music.
Earlier this month, for example, they hosted “Lady Cove Rocks!” — a night of music at Club One where soloists and small groups from the choir sang songs by Lady Gaga, Pink and others, accompanied by local musicians such as Meg Warren of Repartee, Jerry Stamp and Steve Maloney.
“One of the big things I’ve learned over the past 10 years, is you have to always offer a variety of music, not only for the audience, but for the choir members, because everybody has such different tastes,” Walsh said. “I spend a lot of time on websites and YouTube, looking at what different choirs are doing and then just finding a good balance of repertoire that will really challenge the choir or offer something satisfying to them that will also be really enjoyable for the audience.”
Tonight, Lady Cove will present its second performance of the season, a holiday show aptly titled “Shimmer,” at Cochrane Street United Church.
In a special debut presentation, Lady Cove will be joined by the MUN Brass Ensemble to perform a Christmas masterpiece commissioned by Lady Cove, written by Michael Snelgrove — the choir’s 16th commissioned piece.
The show will include traditional choral pieces such as “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” spirituals such as “Ride On, King Jesus” and “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” as well as an arrangement of “The Huron Carol.”
The choir is also offering a limited number of “The Tweetest Seats in the House.”
“These are seats reserved for people who want to use their smartphones to take videos and pictures and share their comments on the performance,” Walsh said. “It will be interesting to see people’s comments in real time.”
Anyone wishing to follow the social media conversation from the Tweetest Seats can do so by searching for the Twitter hashtag #ladycove.
Tickets for “Shimmer” are $24 ($18 for seniors and students) and can be bought at Travel Bug in the Avalon Mall and on Water Street, at C’est Moi in Churchill Square, by emailing email@example.com or by calling 725-4758. Showtime is 8 p.m.