I went to summer camp for eight years – from the age of nine until I graduated high school.
And I should specify… I went to CHOIR camp!
Since my childhood, I have sung in school choirs, all-city choirs, summer choirs, jazz choirs, church choirs, and musicals. I wouldn’t call myself a talented singer – I just love choirs.
So it seemed a natural fit for my first project in the Producer role at Journeyman to be a follow-up video piece with Xara Choral Theatre. Journeyman had made a teaser with Xara before I worked here, and in the fall, they were ready for another.
Xara Choral Theatre is a world-class, powerhouse vocal ensemble that incorporates movement and theatre into stunning and evocative performances.
My task was simple: take all of that power and tell the story of Xara, in two minutes.
Walk in the park, right?
To help guide me through the creative heavy lifting, we brought in Luckas, an experienced director and mover-and-shaker in the Halifax film world. Luckas acted as a mentor to me for the project as I observed his creative process and technique.
Together, we attended rehearsals, met the singers, received testimonials, and tried to learn the true meaning of Xara. What was immediately striking is “XaraLove” – the singers are clearly deeply fond of each other, and the atmosphere is always warm and joyful. As a result, these ladies achieve performance standards of the the fiercest professionals. Their shared drive for perfection bonds them into a sisterhood, which in turns drives their performances to the calibre they have achieved.
When asked their thoughts about Xara – many of the singers had told us similar stories – they had emerged from high school or university music programs, and had no outlet for professional singing. Finding Xara was like being struck by lightening. This was where they belonged – they just knew it. The leaders, Christina and Claire, also told another story. They recalled instances of singers who had come in, easily identifiable as fresh to the real world – self-conscious, maladroit, perhaps a bit insecure – and Xara had visibly transformed them into ‘Beyonces’. Confident, graceful and expert women walking onto the stage.
Over hot drinks at Lion and Bright, the four of us loved talking about that moment – just before you step out on stage…that electricity, and the explosive feeling of nailing a performance, together.
That was the magic we needed to show in the video.
One of the songs the choir was working on is called “Here on These Branches” by Canadian composer Sarah Quartel. The song tells of a girl who encounters chickadees singing in the woods. The girl is enchanted by their chorus, and slowly, she becomes one of them…and soon another young girl comes through the woods…
Young girls. Enchanted by singing. Embracing. Transformation.
So Luckas created the story of young Kristen – a seemingly timid young woman who spies herself- a magical version of herself – on stage giving an epic performance. She is enveloped by the magical choir, and transforms into Bird Kristen: the beautiful, complete performer.
There is something magical about the video and there was something magical about the ‘making of’ aspect, too. At Journeyman, we couldn’t help but notice that there was something unusual about the creation of this piece.
It should go without saying that there is passion behind all of Journeyman’s productions – we’re crazy about what we do. But there’s a click, a spark, a thingamajig, that happens when you get the right people in the right places at the right times. It is in these instances, the video becomes more than a video, it becomes an object of passion – and somehow, you can tell by watching it.
At Journeyman, we’ve taken to calling it “El duende” – a phrase used in flamenco dance for those moments when the dancers, the musicians and the audience experience a lightning bolt of synchronicity – a shared instance of perfection that no-one could foresee, but everyone felt.
A visually-driven director, a choir-groupie producer, a helluva shooter and a choral ensemble who eat El duende for breakfast… talk about that electricity, and the explosive feeling of nailing a performance, together.
Take a look for yourself!
Blog written by:Kate Mosher, Production Coordinator, Journeyman Film Company