Pro Coro Canada – Alberta’s professional choir, based in Edmonton – announced its new Artistic Director and Principal Conductor last night: Michael Zaugg. Mr. Zaugg originally hails from Switzerland but calls Montreal home. This appointment follows an in-depth 18 month search, which saw 28 applications from four continents.
Zaugg serves as Artistic Director of both the St. Lawrence Choir in Montreal and the Cantata Singers of Ottawa. When speaking about how he sees performances, Zaugg compared choral performances to a full-course meal, saying each performance gives the listener the opportunity to experience a variety of different flavours, some exotic and others familiar. Zaugg brings a new type of innovation and creativity to choral music with his experimentation with integrating different art forms – such as dance and painting – with choral music.
I had the opportunity to ask Michael Zaugg a few questions about his vision for Pro Coro after he was introduced as the new Artistic Director.
Jenna Marynowski: You mentioned that you’ve known of Pro Coro for quite a while. Before this position was available, what was your impression of Pro Coro as a choir?
Michael Zaugg: In fact it’s the choir I heard of the earliest…They were almost always the most interesting to me because they have a Swedish or Scandinavian founding idea. Their founder brought over Swedish conductors as well, so there’s sort of a Scandinavian connection with myself.
JM: Based on your experience working with the choir, what do you feel is the next step for Pro Coro?
MZ: Definately we need to do a tour. I think the last cross-Canada tour the choir did was 5 years ago. So that’s the next step, just go out and do concerts all over Canada, and hopefully in two or three years, maybe an international tour.
JM: So, do you want to make Pro Coro more of a “household” name like some of the other choirs in Canada?
MZ: They are a household name in the sense of, if you talk about the three big choirs in Canada, they’re one of them. But, they haven’t really got a lot of CDs out, so they’re sort of living through their reputation. We have to feed into and nurture [that reputation].
JM: You said that collaboration was really important to you in your speech – are you referring to collaboration with other choirs in the city, or the Edmonton arts community in general?
MZ: I think that it’s with the art community at large. For sure we will involve other choirs, but it’s more just to go out and work with other disciplines that you wouldn’t think [could] work together with choir. For example, contemporary dance. I don’t think people think of that as a possible concept, but it is, and it’s really very exciting. Or choir and film – [specifically] choir and live video. So, there’s camera’s in the room and there’s someone, almost like a VJ, working and matching the feeds to the music. It’s like bringing choir into the 21st century.
Pro Coro’s next performance is the world premier of David Mott’s “Heart Mediations” on February 12 at the McDougall United church, conducted by Erik Westberg. More information, and tickets, are available from the Winspear Centre.
– Jenna Marynowski