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Bisset Singers bring choral festival to Cranbrook

Vocal coach Chuck  Bisset rehearses with the choir at Knox Presbyterian in Cranbrook last week. - Sally MacDonald photo
Vocal coach Chuck Bisset rehearses with the choir at Knox Presbyterian in Cranbrook last week.
— image credit: Sally MacDonald photo

Cranbrook will play host to a gathering of seven choirs from western Canada and the United States in April.

The International Choral Festival will be held in Cranbrook at the Alliance Church on Saturday, April 12.

Cranbrook's Bisset Singers, who have been members of the festival for six years, were invited to host the festival in 2014.

"Each year, a choir that is a member hosts. In the concert, each choir does a set of three pieces," explained Chuck Bisset, vocal coach and founder of the local choir.

The Bisset Singers are rehearsing Eric Whitacre's "Sleep", a performance of "O Magnum Mysterium" and a unique version of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love".

The local choir will be joined by choirs from throughout B.C. and Washington: the Appleaires women's choir and Apollo Club men's choir from Wenatchee, Washington; the Washington Camerata Club from Yakima, Washington; the Washington Village Voices from Leavenworth, Washington; the Naramata Community Choir from Naramata, B.C.. and the Trail Harmony Choir.

"The great crescendo is the last three pieces which are performed by the mass choir," said Bisset.

Choir member Jim Abbott said that when the 380-odd voices of the combined choirs come together, it's a special experience.

"I didn't realize how much of a bucket list moment it would be for me to be a part of a mass choir. It's an emotional thing when you have all these voices around you."

As the event's hosts, the Bisset Singers were able to invite another choir to join the festival. They choose the Cranbrook Elementary Schools Mass Choir.

"At the Christmas event, Chuck said, 'Why couldn't we have them as our voices for it?' So we approached the teachers and in all sincerity said, 'We would like to give the elementary school students an opportunity not only to perform in front of a big audience, but also to be part of a mass choir,'" said Abbott.

The school choir will perform three songs, and then join with the entire choral festival for one piece: a majestic Pie Jesu.

"That is the core showpiece of our performance," said Abbott.

The Bisset Singers, which has about 30 members, came together as a choir 14 years ago.

"We started off as a group voice lesson. I started the choir so people could learn to sing," said Bisset.

Abbott added: "Bisset Singers is virtually an extension of Chuck's teaching. It gives Chuck's students a chance to take part in performance."

Bisset said that the participation of the school students has caused a buzz in Cranbrook.

"The thing that really excites me is how Cranbrook as a city seems to be really getting excited and embracing it. You have all these parents of the kids taking time out on a Saturday to get their kids to rehearsals."

The festival weekend will kick off on Friday, April 11 from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a welcoming reception at the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. The public is invited to the reception, which will feature wine tasting from Wynnwood Cellars, beer tasting from Fisher Peak Brewing Company, and tours of the rail cars.

The festival will feature two performances on Saturday, April 12 at the Cranbrook Alliance Church, a matinee at 2:30 p.m. And an evening performance at 7 p.m. About 650 tickets will be available for each performance, on sale at Lotus Books in Cranbrook and the Kimberley Visitor Centre for $20.

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