The Ekoos Vocal Ensemble at the Harbourside Cohousing concert on May 28. The ensemble celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. (Contributed)

Ekoos Vocal Ensemble celebrates 25 years of singing

The Sooke a cappella choir performed its first concert in 1994

Ekoos Vocal Ensemble celebrated its 25th anniversary with a concert on May 18 for an invited audience at Harbourside Cohousing.

This long-time a cappella choir performed its first concert in 1994 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church. The group has performed in various venues in Sooke, Metchosin, Colwood and Victoria.

Long-time Ekoos member Alice McLean remembers performing a medieval mass at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Victoria.

The 25th anniversary concert featured pieces chosen by choir members from each year the choir has been singing together.

“It’s been very enjoyable to rehearse this program, and to revisit so many of our favourites,” said Ekoos member Karen Davies.

The program was divided into early music, Canadiana and classical and modern, and included madrigals in English and French, sacred songs from the Renaissance through modern eras, Canadian folk stories, a Haida love song, and a jazzy piece about the habits of rabbits composed especially for Ekoos by former conductor Christopher Symons.

In addition, a selection of Celtic songs was performed by Warren Moore on flute and Fred Andrew on guitar.

“The origins of Ekoos go back to 1994, when Rev. Ken Gray of Sooke’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church, and Kathy Kirk, the church’s organist, assembled a group of singers from the Sooke community to perform a one-off concert at the church. As the concert went well, the group continued to meet at the church and to perform more works,” said Warren Moore, an original member who still sings with Ekoos.

Since that time, other musical directors have included David Clenman, Michael Peter, Christopher Symons, Cassandra Miller, Wade Noble and Peter Dent, each of whom brought their own personal style and varied repertoire to the group.

And where did the name Ekoos come from? You can decide from the following possibilities: A cryptic religious anagram; Turkistan throat singing; The name of Tonto’s horse; Sooke spelled backwards; “Echoes” of Sooke.

Asked about highlights from past years, soprano Gail Abernethy recounted this experience:

“One memory that stands out for me is our recording session at CFAX. We won the Sooke Ballad 150th Anniversary contest and the prize was a recording session. When we arrived, the engineer was looking very fed up. It turned out that he had been helping to record the winners of another competition all day. This was a Battle of the Bands group, serious headbanger music as I recall and when another competition-winning group showed up his heart visibly sank. Then we started to sing and suddenly he couldn’t have been happier or more helpful. He helped us move mics and add effects that made us sound like we were in a cathedral. He invited us into his room and demonstrated effects which could be used to bring out different qualities in the music. A good time was had by all in the end.”

Ekoos currently works without a conductor, which has its challenges as well as benefits.

“We have to listen to each other more, and to let each member contribute their ideas about repertoire and opinions about blend, intonation and expression. We need to be very democratic!” said alto Sheila Whincup.

Ekoos is grateful to be able to rehearse and perform at Harbourside Cohousing, where three of the choir members live. New singers are always welcome, especially men. Please go online to www.members.shaw.ca/ekooschoir.

– Submitted by Sheila Whincup

ALSO READ: Ekoos Vocal Ensemble celebrates 20 years of beautiful music

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