Samara Bortz wasn’t really intending to begin a choral family when she took over a Peninsula-based adult women’s choir from Sarona Mynhardt in 2016.
The latter was winding down her own White Rock Children’s Choir dynasty preparatory to retiring, with husband Johan, to the Sunshine Coast.
But Mynhardt – who was Bortz’ music teacher when she attended Ray Shepherd Elementary – planted a choral tradition in the community two decades ago that has taken deep roots and continues to flower to this day.
The ongoing need for multiple children’s and adult choir experiences in the White Rock and South Surrey can be seen from the phenomenal growth of Bortz’ Crescent Choirs organization.
Only three years later, this now includes six groups.
All will be showcased this Sunday (Dec. 8, 6 p.m.) at White Rock Baptist Church, 1657 140 St., as the organization presents Glow – billed as “a magical evening of Christmas, winter and holiday music.”
The program will bring together – for the first time in the same venue – the Angeli Children’s Choir (kindergarten to Grade 2 children), the Lux Children’s Choir (Grades 3-7, with high school mentors from the Youth Choir who volunteer each week at rehearsals); the Crescent Youth Choir (high school and university-aged students); the Crescent Women’s Choir (adult women, non-auditioned); the Luna Vocal Ensemble (auditioned women’s chamber choir); and the Aurora Chamber Choir (a mixed-voice auditioned young adult chamber choir, directed by Bortz’ husband Andrew, who is also pianist for all the choirs).
“I was about nine in 2001, when I first joined Sarona’s White Rock Children’s Choir in Grade 4,” reflected Bortz, who – as Samara Ripley – served a long apprenticeship as one of Mynhardt’s core group of young singers who toured internationally for some 15 years, as well as hosting choirs from around the world at home on the Peninsula.
“I had no idea that it would become the direction of my life – but it was obviously a good task,” she said.
“I’ve found I love teaching all the different age groups, and it just naturally started to grow. It wasn’t the plan from the start, but it’s working out well now. “
Notable in the upcoming concert, Bortz said, will be the moment all six choirs – along with special guests cellist Emily Burton and violinist Jiten Bearisto – will share the stage for Night of Silence, a reworking of the carol, Silent Night.
“We’re still trying to figure out where everybody will go for that one,” she laughed.
Putting a contemporary twist on tradition, The Luna Vocal Ensemble will be heard in Gaudete! – an exciting percussion-augmented arrangement of a sacred medieval Christmas song – and will join the Lux Children’s Choir in a modern version of I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day, which also features Grade 12 soloist Emma Verret.
Other highlights will include Crescent Youth Choir’s Twelve Days of Christmas – emphasizing comedy, with a surprise ending – the Crescent Women’s Choir’s version of Auld Lang Syne, featuring soloist Katy LaVigne, and the Angeli and Lux children’s choirs joining together to sing Rodgers & Hammerstein’s My Favourite Things, from The Sound of Music.
Bortz said she is delighted to be able to showcase all the choirs’ abilities in Sunday’s performance.
But, she added, it’s about more than singing beautiful music – it’s about shared experience.
“As well as skills and technical abilities, we’re working to create a community through singing, in which people can build relationships and connections,” she said.
Tickets ($20 pre-sale or $25 at the venue, free for children 12 and under) can be purchased at crescentchoirs.com/glow