By Gabrielle Gaudreault
Having come to choral singing quite late in life, it never occurred to me to audition for the National Youth Choir. Joining this ensemble as the apprentice conductor this past summer was not only my first experience with this particular choir program, but also my first ever choir tour. Going on tour, between the countless hours on a bus, changing beds every night, singing in a new space every day, and not knowing what you’ll get to eat, can bring out the best and the worst in people. In the case of a group like the NYC, and probably most choirs, it brings out the best. Choral singing, apart from the beautiful music and meaningful texts, is about community. It’s about working together and pooling our talents to create something greater than ourselves or our own personal abilities. It’s about building a team, a family, and establishing trust in each other.
On top of building friendships with singers from across the country, I was lucky to be working alongside a kind and open-minded conductor, Jeff Joudrey, who became both a dear friend and mentor to me. We had the privilege of collaborating with one of Newfoundland’s finest pianists, and all around awesome person and musician, Phil Roberts. Together, the three of us laughed our way through every meal, had long conversations about the music and the meaning of everything we do as musicians and conductors, learned how to carefully tune a random assortment of wine glasses, and learned each other’s strengths and quirks to form a strong musical team.
The two intensive weeks of rehearsing and touring with the NYC allowed me to grow as a musician, collaborator and conductor in so many ways. From a practical perspective, I learned about the careful pacing of rehearsal plans when faced with a short and intense period of rehearsal time. It is an intricate balance of vocal capacity, mental focus, physical energy, and mood changes provided by the variety of repertoire. It is also a unique experience to try and create a unified and healthy choral sound with so many brilliant voices in such little time, all the while sticking to a rigid plan for learning all the repertoire, and simultaneously build musicianship and ensemble skills that will last and benefit everyone as they leave the NYC program. I am grateful to Jeff for giving me ample podium time during the rehearsal process. Getting to conduct and rehearse a large portion of the varied repertoire allowed me to both discover and hone in on my strengths as a conductor, as well as work through some of my weaknesses.
In addition to the amazing musical experience, travelling across Newfoundland, getting to know the people in each town who hosted us so generously, discovering each unique area of the province, and singing in many different venues are just some of the factors that made the NYC program absolutely unforgettable. The choir even had the chance to workshop and perform with a couple youth choirs during our tour, which was as enjoyable and fulfilling an opportunity for us as for them.
The adventures of unpredictable weather (snow in late June!), random escapades to shopping malls and bouncy gyms to avoid said weather, and getting properly Screeched-in in Carbonear only added to the excitement of the journey. Our fabulous tour manager, Kristian Butt, ensured that we came away with the most authentic and memorable Newfoundland experience possible!
My time as the apprentice conductor of the National Youth Choir was exhilarating, inspiring and completely overwhelming in the best possible way. I was honoured to perform with such an incredible group of singers, and for an audience full of the nation’s most accomplished musicians and conductors. The Sir Ernest MacMillan Foundation provides this incredible opportunity for a young conductor to not only spend two wonderful weeks doing what we love with people who love it just as much, but also to connect with past and future colleagues from across the nation and world.
~ Gabrielle Gaudreault
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