“I think it’s a very intimate and hopeful album, which turns out to be a wonderful thing right now.”
So says Elektra Women’s Choir artistic director Morna Edmundson about “Fire Flowers,” the 17th collection of music released by the Vancouver-based ensemble she co-founded 33 years ago.
“Fire Flowers” invites the listener to a wealth of 21st-century repertoire for women’s voices, including several first recordings, according to a BC ArtsPost media release.
Edmundson, a longtime Guildford-area resident, shared her thoughts in a 35-minute “launch party” video posted to the choir’s Facebook page on Aug. 11. She introduced the music of “Fire Flowers” and also interviewed two of the featured composers, Don Macdonald and Marie-Claire Saindon.
The opening work, “Sicut Lilium Inter Spinas,” was written for women in a 16th-century Italian convent. “Its authorship by Eleanora d’Este is conjecture based on modern-day research. It was originally published anonymously, as it would have been unacceptable for a noblewoman to publish under her own name at that time,” notes a post at elektra.ca/cds/fire-flowers.
“Fast-forward to the five other tracks on this recording by women and one experiences the raw energy of ‘Terre-Neuve’ by Marie-Claire Saindon and ‘Seikilos’ by Joanne Metcalf, a playful vocalise by Saindon called ‘Turlutte acadienne Montrealaise,’ Joni Mitchell’s loving tribute to her baby daughter, ‘Little Green,’ arranged for Elektra by Kate MacColl, and Susan LaBarr’s exquisite closing track, ‘Spring Shall Bloom’ on which our wonderful pianist, Dr. Stephen Smith, absolutely shines.”
As well, a theme of music is represented by composers Sheldon Rose, Pärt Uusberg, Stephen Smith and Nicholas Ryan Kelly. The title track, by Macdonald, “brings us to a place of acceptance with words by E. Pauline Johnson which compare human suffering to a burnt forest floor – where from tragic circumstances, new growth and delicate flowers can emerge.”
Featured on the recording are pianist Stephen Smith, violinist Joan Blackman and cellist Rebecca Wenham.
“Fire Flowers” is released online only and can be downloaded on iTunes or streamed through other platforms.
Back in 1987, Edmundson chatted with a fellow choral director at a Vancouver Chamber Choir concert – a conversation that gave birth to Elektra Women’s Choir.
“I was with Diane Loomer,” Edmundson said in a 2016 interview, four years after Loomer’s death, in 2012. “I had just come back from studying in Sweden for a year, and we thought, ‘No one is singing the women’s choir repertoire – I wonder what the repertoire is?’”
Over its three-plus decades, Elektra has explored all the important music for women’s choir, spearheaded the creation of countless new scores and raised the profile of female choirs.