Education / Outreach

illustration by Pascal Élie
Commentated Concerts—a VivaVoce Trademark

From the first-grader to the devoted CD-collector, we all need hints on what to listen for in music. Picking up where Leonard Bernstein's famous Young People's Concerts left off in 1970, Artistic Director Peter Schubert takes the music apart to show audiences of all ages how it's put together. What was the composer trying to do? What did other composers of the same period do differently? What, indeed, is special about choral music?

Choral repertoire, from Gregorian chant to Carmina Burana, is surprisingly rich, and individual pieces can be dauntingly complex. VivaVoce demystifies the music to enhance the listeners' enjoyment. We provide an inside look at polyphony, for instance, by demonstrating the various vocal lines separately. We explore the metaphoric relation between music and text. We illustrate the role of the conductor, inviting members of the audience to try their hand at beating time.

Each audience, indeed, each individual, has unique questions and reactions. A fourth-grader wants to hear the difference between a tenor and a bass; an adult enjoys learning to recognize Bach's musical symbols for the ideas of sin and redemption. VivaVoce tailors its discussion and examples to the appropriate level, making each concert an enlightening and memorable experience.

I love the 'difference' from other choirs.

I was totally amazed by this singing, so magisterial and secure in repertoire that was challenging and at times fiendishly difficult. The tuning and intonation were a joy to hear. The musical repertoire was deftly programmed into a satisfying whole. One's admiration for the classic composers was equalled by the enthusiasm generated for our contemporary colleagues. What a feast!

Absolutely wonderful concerts! We love the music, the professional singers & the commentary. We will be back for more!

Fabulous. Great voices, great repertoire. The commentary is as enjoyable as it is informative!

School Concerts

One of VivaVoce's goals is to introduce young people to classical music through accessible and entertaining choral concerts. Each year we adapt one program for elementary- or secondary-school students, with a strong pedagogical component. In addition to offering these concerts for a fee, we offer it free of charge to several schools in underprivileged areas, thanks to a private foundation grant. In the last seven years, our interactive school programs have exposed about 4500 students to classical choral music in a way that involves them and captures their interest, developing, we believe, choral audiences—and singers!—for the future. For information about booking a school concert, contact us at vivavoce AT videotron DOT ca.

The students were guided through each work that was performed. Mr. Schubert is a natural when it comes to communicating with his audience. The concert was both enjoyable and educational. I highly recommend VivaVoce for any school that regards music as an important part of the curriculum. The students of Lower Canada College await their return next year.

Thank you again for your visit to Bishop's College School last November. The concert that you presented was a delight to the students and staff of the school. It was varied and entertaining. Peter Schubert's commentary was fun and enlightening.

On behalf of the students and staff at Trafalgar, I would like to thank you for bringing your wonderful program to our school. VivaVoce provided the perfect grand finale to our Arts Festival. We all enjoyed your sense of humour and appreciated your fun and lively approach to Renaissance music. The forty minutes we spent with you and your ensemble, learning about the elements of sacred and secular Renaissance music, flew by in a wink. The audience listened with awe and admiration …

Mentorship Project for Young Composers

In 2005–06, VivaVoce launched and completed an eight-month pilot mentorship project in which two established composers with choral-writing experience (Isabelle Panneton and Jonathan Wild) mentored two emerging composers with an interest in writing for vocal ensemble (Emily Hall and Francis Delisle). The young composers received twenty hours of instruction from their mentors, and attended a workshop/reading midway through the composition of their pieces, as well as several rehearsals as the ensemble prepared for the performance. An open rehearsal of the new pieces, to which composers from all four Montreal universities were invited.

I wanted to write earlier to thank you, Peter, and the rest of the choir for such a wonderful concert! I was very happy with the performance of my piece, and it was such a joy to hear all your beautiful voices! This introduction to the world of the choir has certainly provided me a good taste of experience that will help me continue to effectively address the potential possibilities of this genre in today's context.

Emily Hall, composer Peter Schubert, Jon Wild, Emily Hall, Isabelle Panetton, Francis Delisle

Thank you again for the concert Wednesday; you gave an excellent performance of my piece, and I was very much moved …. The project gave me an exceptional opportunity to be able to work with a professional vocal ensemble. The experience was extremely influential, in that I received comments and suggestions from the singers and a very experienced choral conductor. The fact that we were able to hear a first reading of the our work two months before the premiere is one of the strong points of the program. Indeed, thanks to that workshop, I was able to try out certain musical ideas, see whether they were idiomatic for the voice, see if my transcription waas effective and then make some adjustments to the piece. What's more, I liked the idea of an exchange between the two universities …. Moreover, the project gave me the visibility that is so important for a young composer …. The project was enriching at all levels.

Francis Delisle, composer (translated by L. Schubert)
Choral Workshops

VivaVoce and Peter Schubert are available for intensive workshops with university choirs and composers. For more information, contact us at vivavoce AT videotron DOT ca.

Just a brief note to thank you once again for the delightful concert and the master class with us last term. The work you did on the Palestrina was extremely valuable—the sort of careful crafting and shaping that all too often simply doesn't get done in amateur organizations like ours. The results were terrific. Our members also benefited greatly from your lecture concert the following evening. To see the deportment and technique of consummate professionals 'up close' certainly helps them to imagine more effectively what they ought to be aiming at in their own performances.

Jamie Crooks, Director, Bishop's University Singers
How to Improvise a Canon

Peter Schubert and Dawn Bailey show how to improvise a canon, Renaissance style. Produced by Tuscan Bean Soup, Montreal (George Massenburg, producer; Michelle Hugill, editor; Shelley Stein-Sacks, concept and strategy).

Lesson #1
Lesson #2
Lesson #3
Lesson #4
For more videos with Peter Schubert, see his YouTube channel, peterschubertmusic.