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Why We Are Here! brings pop-up choir to Calgary

By Gurman Sahota, January 17 2017 —

Following a recent trend in audience participation, the site-specific pop-up choir Why We Are Here! will transform Studio Bell, the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer and Lougheed Historic House into audience-based performances. The performances feature a scripted first half and a spontaneous second half that acts as a response to the city, site or score. The performance is part of this year’s High Performance Rodeo.

Performance co-creator Brian Quirt says there is excitement in having a flexible portion of the show post-intermission.

“We figure out what the second half will be during the show. We have plans and we have ideas of what might happen in the second half but we’re always extremely open,” Quirt says.

With three nights in different locations, the show benefits from deviating from traditional choral performances. Alongside the different locations for each performance comes a different choral director and different music. Quirt says that a musical response is formed to the events of the day and what’s happening in the city.

“Because of the mixture of people [and events], we’re able to coalesce as a choir more quickly and go further in terms of what they might sing so all of those factors help shape what goes on in the second half,” he says.

The High Performance Rodeo will be the first time the piece has travelled outside of its Toronto origins. Quirt says that part of the fun is finding locations in a new city. Collaborating with HPR, the creators identified 25 locations across downtown Calgary before narrowing the list down to three. Quirt says finding a site that is available and serves the interests of the show. He says the show will engage with Calgary by exposing the city’s rich history.

“[Calgary is] obviously a very different city, its history is different, its landscape is different, its age is different, the mixture of people is different,” Quirt says. “In the same sense we’re not sure what will happen musically over the course of the evening. How those will combine in a given evening could be quite different depending on the city.”

Quirt hopes that Calgary audiences will view their city from a new perspective and see the location through a different lens after attending the performance.

“By inviting the audience to become a part of the choir, there’s hope that they’ll listen more effectively, listen more surely to music and the sounds, whether it’s choral or not, to performances and also the city that surrounds them,” he says.

Why We Are Here! will perform at Studio Bell, Cathedral Church of the Redeemer and Lougheed Historic House on Jan. 18, 20 and 22, respectively. Tickets are $15.

For more information, visit hprodeo.ca

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