On a cool late winter’s evening, 25 voices rise, “What else can I do but open my heart to you.”
The selection of singers from each one of Bowen’s 10 choirs are rehearsing for Singing Back the Light, a benefit concert for the Bowen Island food bank to be held March 9 at Cates Hill Chapel. The concert is premiering Brian Hoover’s musical storytelling production.
The entirely Bowen-produced concert has several notable soloists and accompanists, including soprano Lynn Ellis-Williams, tenor Carlos Vela-Martinez, storyteller Martin Clarke, pianist Sheilagh Sparks, flautist Shasta Martinuk and conductor Alison Nixon.
“[Hoover]’s just written gorgeous, beautiful work, where I believe it really pulls the essence of contemporary theology, contemporary spirituality,” says Nixon. “In an extraordinary way, he encapsulates everything that goes into the great world religions, and he brings it down to an essence. Which is beautiful.”
The songs are text from Hoover’s recently-published books, Tales from the Heart and Twelve Standing Stones set to music the former Victoria Symphony bassist, violin maker and song circle host, composed over the past two years.
“And then he has this lovely, simple music, which is I think derivative of chant, and derivative of folk music as well, and I’d even say derivative of, even though none of us here are First Nations, borrowing of First Nations care,” enthuses Nixon.
Held a little over a week before the spring equinox, the concert’s timing purposefully coincides with the end of winter.
“We all hope for renewed energy to acknowledge and address the issues of poverty, homelessness and hunger,” says Hoover.
He emphasises that the concert is an example of “Bowen giving back”, from the singers, musicians and production crew to the audience members who will come to support the food bank cause.
Hoover explains that the concert begins with cautionary tales, warning of vanity, jealousy, greed and the fear of scarcity and lightens to the hopeful, positive aspects of humanity.
“So at the actual event, you’re going to have the same ideas going from dark to light as you do from January to March in the big picture,” says Hoover.
“Anytime that there’s group singing, and in this case a choir concert, it’s a way of amplifying that aspect of bringing in positive thoughts,” he says. “And hopefully, later on, actions in the community.”
“We are sometimes at a loss for words,” continues Hoover. “And when you’re at a loss for words to speak, singing is always a good venue to go to just because it’s more emotional.”
As Hoover accompanies the choir on the base, his wife Shasta Martinuk in turn plays the flute beside him. The two have lived on Bowen for 25 years and have hosted song circles together for years.
“What else can I do but open my heart to you,” the choir sings. “When I can see who I really am. When I can see who you really are.”
Singing Back the Light is March 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Cates Hill Chapel. Tickets are available at Phoenix or at the door for $20.