It was unavoidable. We were lost.
We had been driving for about forty-five minutes…and twenty of them had been in the wrong direction. Earlier that morning, my car had been loaded up with casseroles, yoga mats, and four brand new friends, on the way to my first Xara retreat. Being new to the area, I had only just met most of the members of Xara the evening previous, and with my poor sense of direction I was still having a hard enough time making it home from a trip to the grocery store, let alone navigating my way to a church hall in The Middle of Nowhere, Nova Scotia. Why had I thought I was qualified to find a teeny tiny town that all five of us were now struggling to even locate on a map? And why had our directors even chosen this obscure location in the first place? As I began to find my place in the Xara Choral Theatre family, I quickly realized that this is what Xara is all about: uncharted territory.
Xara is continually pushing the boundaries of the choral theatre art form, combining high-calibre choral music with innovative movement and staging. No element of performance is ignored, no aesthetic stone left unturned, so to speak. As a brand new little “xara,” I was anxious to learn how these incredible performances are brought to life. The short answer is this: every single individual involved in a Xara show is pushing their own personal limits so the group can move forward as a whole. We try newthings and work in ways that are new, exciting, and sometimes risky. Since jumping into Xara, I’ve been exposed to new ways of moving and singing, yoga, seriously intense potlucks, and Finnish.
I’ve sung in and directed choirs for much of my life, and I’ve never been a part of a group like this. We vigilantly learn our music at home so that rehearsals are used solely to bring it to life. The focus is on storytelling: we want to make it real to you. Everyone comes from different backgrounds – both artistic and personal – and everyone has different strengths and areas of growth. Personally, I am primarily a singer with some background in acting, (and some serious opportunity for growth in directed movement!) but the artists on either side of me may be singers like me, or dancers, or puppeteers, or costume designers, or scientists, or graphic artists, and they all have a different way to tell the story.
More than all this, I was overwhelmed by how much Xara members care about each other, and about the local and global communities. I have come to see that it is only in being able to trust one another and to be vulnerable with each other that such a high level of art can be achieved, and in coming together this way, a production is created that is much larger than the sum of its parts. As it turns out, I never should have been worried on that lost Saturday morning trip to the middle of nowhere – in a group as varied as this, there is bound to be an expert for every situation.