What’s in a name?  Quite a lot for the former Indian River Festival Chorus.

IRFC singers enjoyed their role as ‘back-up vocals’ for featured artists at the Festival in each of its nine years.  But this year the Festival chose not to use the Chorus, which strengthened director Carl Mathis’s growing feeling that the group is ready to claim its own identity, repertoire, and audience.

Mathis says that “within minutes” of his e-mailing his decision to break with the Festival, “the responses came back from singers, saying, ‘So where are we going to sing then?’ It was very positive.  I was delighted, overwhelmed, and humbled.  Their answers are what made this future we are launching.”

Much remains unchanged besides the director, a former voice professor at UPEI: the mandate to sing classical music, rehearsals and concerts in the summer, and a core membership of experienced choristers from other choirs, who would otherwise have to forego their singing fix at this time of year.

All of these elements were reflected in a recent “Name-the-choir” ballot circulated by an interim Executive among current members.  The short list included “The Island Summer Chorus,” and “The Master Singers.”  But the clear winner reflects the choir’s classical roots, its unbroken, though altered, existence, and the sheer love of bel canto or ‘beautiful singing’: Vive Viva Voce – the living voice!

“The IRFC,” says Mathis, “sang music from the 14th century to ‘the ink is still wet.’  So will Viva Voce – including classical pieces twisted into something funny.  Composers have written humorous pieces for centuries, so we won’t be stuffy.”

Already there are more performance invitations for this new/old choir than ever before.  During August 1-5 Viva Voce will appear in the organ recital series at St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, Charlottetown, and Saint Simon and Saint Jude Roman Catholic Church, Tignish; in a Sunday service at Trinity United Church, Summerside; and in an independent concert at Bonshaw Hall.

Viva Voce currently has 22 members.  New singers of all voices, experienced in learning classical music, are welcome.  Rehearsals are Mondays 7-9 pm at Bonshaw Hall, beginning May 31; regular attendance and dues ($40/year) are required.  Anyone interested should call Carl Mathis at 892-1780.

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