It was an innocent enough way to start.
Eight friends, all enrolled in the music program at the University of British Columbia, were sitting around a dining room table with a bottle of wine talking about where to take their voices.
Since those humble beginnings 20 years ago, musica intima has continued to gain new fans and earn its reputation as one of Canada’s most exciting vocal ensembles.
Although he was 13 years old at the time –– his voice just barely reaching the lower register it does now –– Peter Alexander says that meeting amongst music intima’s founders would instill in him a love of singing… and wine.
Now a member of the group FACTOR (the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) named “Canada’s indie rock choral band,” Alexander joins musica intima as it winds its way through wine country to open the North Okanagan Community Concert Association’s 2012-13 season on Oct. 14.
Alexander was a fan of the a cappella singing group long before he auditioned for them.
“I bought their second CD (1999’s Clear) when I was in Grade 11. I had heard them sing Shenandoah and Loch Lomond, and loved it,” said Alexander, who after high school went on to study orchestral percussion at UBC and also trained in classical voice at Vancouver Community College.
He first auditioned for music intima in 2003.
“I am a bass voice normally, but I was asked to sing tenor. Back then it was too early for me to sing in that range, so a year and a half later I auditioned again for the bass part when it became open,” said Alexander who has since sung tenor, baritone and bass in various choirs and ensembles.
However, it’s with music intima, known for its lack of a conductor, that he feels the most at home. With only eight members, the group is close-knit to say the least, and all decisions are made by each member of the group, all of whom are considered artistic directors.
Although the ensemble started as an eight-member group, four more voices were added two years after forming so that they could qualify for the CBC Choral Competition, said Alexander.
They ended up winning the competition and stayed as a 12-member group until last year.
“We have always considered ourselves a chamber ensemble first and foremost,” said Alexander. “I think having eight of us makes us more focussed.”
It also doesn’t hurt for transportation on this current tour, which starts in Edmonton and then travels to Nelson and Vernon.
“At least we now only need two cars to get from town to town,” said Alexander.
A new member is also on board for the journey with the recent addition of Jacob Gramit, who is also out of the UBC’s vocal program.
“He’s a natural and studied music in Europe,” said Alexander.
Musica intima last performed in the Okanagan when the Western Canada Music Awards took place in Kelowna two years ago. One of the musicians they performed alongside as part of the awards showcase, Breakout West, was none other than Ed Henderson, of rock band Chilliwack.
The group plans to perform a song Henderson wrote for them entitled Your Fragrance on this tour.
“The last few years we have focussed on Canadian choral repertoire. Before this we had recorded music by Estonian composers that everyone in Europe was already singing,” said Alexander, adding that it was Polyfonia, a choral festival in France, where they decided to change their mandate.
“We were the only choir from North America to be invited and we were told to bring Canadian repertoire, so we thought we should champion this and build a show around it.”
For this tour, musica intima will perform Henderdon’s piece as well as works by such Canadian composers as R. Murray Schafer and even B.C. Celtic rock band Spirit of the West’s The Crawl, arranged for them by group alumnus Andrew Hillhouse. Another work has been arranged by musica intima founder Michael Murray, while tenor and current member, Lane Price has contributed one of his original compositions.
“It’s very Canadian-centric,” said Alexander about the repertoire, adding, “We will still perform some European composers for good measure.”
The ensemble is also planning a compilation of its favourite songs from the last 20 years, culminating in a best-of recording and spring concert, aptly tiled 20.
“I think we’ve come full circle in 20 years. We are collaborating with the alumni members of the group and are reserving our best vintage for the occasion,” said Alexander, again alluding to the group’s other favourite indulgence.
Music intima’s many fans will drink to that.
The ensemble takes the stage at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre for one night only, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. North Okanagan Community Concert Association memberships and individual tickets ($35/adults and $17.50/students under 18, $5/eyeGo) are now available at the Ticket Seller box office. Call 549-7469 or purchase online at ticketseller.ca.