Skip to content

Choir recruits for Coast Requiem premiere

"People tell me, ‘Oh, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.’ Well, I tell them I’ll give them a bucket.”
Arts & Culture - Requiem recruitment (credit Sara Douglas)
The Suncoast Phoenix Community Choir in their final pre-pandemic performance of 2019, under the baton of conductor Sara Douglas.

The leader of the Suncoast Phoenix Community Choir is recruiting singers to take the group’s custom of singing 18th- or 19th-century works in a new direction that blends ancient and modern music.

Over four years until the pandemic paused live concerts, choir conductor Sara Douglas led volunteer choristers in performances of a requiem mass on Remembrance Day. The group alternated between works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Gabriel Fauré. 

This November, Douglas will present the Sunshine Coast debut of the Requiem by 20th-century French musician Maurice Duruflé, exactly 75 years after its composition.

Duruflé, who became a church chorister at the age of 10, incorporated medieval themes from Gregorian chant into his otherwise contemporary setting of the Roman Catholic Church’s traditional mass for the dead.

“This is a much bigger undertaking [than Mozart or Fauré],” said Douglas. “My whole goal in this is to provide a choral experience for singers on the Coast who may not have ever had the opportunity to sing this magnificent piece.”

Encouraging singers to re-emerge after COVID-19 lockdowns, the group last assembled in 2021 to sing a scaled-down reprise of their previous — and familiar — Fauré performance.

Drawing on the membership of her Suncoast Phoenix Community Choir, Douglas has already assembled a corps of 30 singers. She is seeking another 30 recruits of all vocal ranges to produce the Duruflé mass. Auditions are not required. Douglas led an inaugural rehearsal two weekends ago.

“This work is powerful because it’s very 20th-century, with lots of dissonance, lots of harmonies that snarl into your existence,” said Douglas. “And yet it’s based on this simple Gregorian chant and it’s very singable. Some people write music that is choral but is very challenging, or doesn’t sit well in the voice. This requiem is tough — it’s high for the sopranos and tenors — but it’s so lovely to sing. It just ignites the whole soul and transports you to a different plane when you’re singing it.”

Duruflé was commissioned to write the work by the short-lived Vichy government of France during the country’s Nazi occupation. He completed it more than two years after D-Day.

Douglas’s version will be accompanied by organ, harp, strings and trumpets. She is currently in talks with a soprano from the Sunshine Coast and a Victoria-based baritone for solo parts.

Rehearsals and the culminating performance on Nov. 10 will take place at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church in Sechelt.

The choir will work collaboratively to learn the score. Each section will record its part so singers can rehearse with audio tracks online.

“I truly believe that everyone should sing because singing is so good for the mind, body, soul and spirit,” said Douglas. “We [used to be a] singing people but now singing appears to be something that people feel they shouldn’t do unless they’re good at it. People tell me, ‘Oh, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.’ Well, I tell them I’ll give them a bucket.”

Singers of any level of skill and experience can contact Sara Douglas via email at [email protected] to join the Requiem choir.