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Songs Well Sung: Aurora

Over the last ten years, Xara has created 25 original works of choral theatre in addition to recording two CDs and performing hundreds of times before audiences of all sizes. This tenth anniversary blog series highlights ten of our favourite original productions. We hope you'll enjoy seeing these glimpses from the past!


AURORA: Songs of North | Songs of Light

Xara's first-ever performance played to a sold-out crowd and was the beginning of a ten-year exploration of the way northern cultures express their relationship with nature through music.


After a full year of planning and a successful pilot project, Xara began rehearsals for the first time ever in September, 2008. With 24 singers ranging in age from 18 to 30 years old, there was an incredible amount of excitement and commitment right from the start. This was a new kind of choir, exploring new kinds of music and new performance techniques.

Although the term choral theatre wasn't in our vocabulary yet, we were determined to bring visual drama and a sense of story to our first show. It was November 29, 2008 and we could hardly believe our eyes when we saw the line-up of people snaking all the way down the church steps to the side walk as they waited to get in to the church. We began in darkness at the back of The Cathedral Church of All Saints with only candles to light our way and our faces. Dressed in white robes with red sashes, the first section of the concert brought to life Sweden's Sankta Lucia ceremony, celebrating the gift of light in the darkest months of the year. As we reached the front of the church, the towering walls of the cathedral were lit with moving projections of falling snow and shimmering northern lights, thanks to the work of a young Nick Bottomley, now a sought-after projection artist,

The rest of the program included works in Estonian, Finnish, Swedish, and English. We were particularly excited to share a piece called Revontulet by Finland's Pekka Kostiainen. It featured unusual sounds, dynamic movement, and body percussion to depict the cracking flashes of the northern lights racing across the sky. It was an incredibly challenging, nine-minute piece of music and was an ambitious choice for our first program. We were emboldened by a workshop session with Swedish-trained, Swiss conductor Michael Zaugg who came to Halifax to help us dig more deeply into the Scandinavian music on our program.

To this day, we run into audience members who love to reminisce about this concert. It was unlike anything most had seen or heard in Nova Scotia before and it seems to have made a lasting impact. For Xara, it was the beginning of a long-term commitment to explore the boundaries of choral performance and we are so excited to see where we go from here!

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