When Peter Alexander started as a singer in a high school chorus it wasn’t the coolest thing to do.
He has the last laugh now as an accomplished troubadour in the Musica Intima vocal ensemble that has travelled the world and is visiting Oliver as part of the South Okanagan Concert Society on Friday.
“I remember in high school being heckled for being the only boy in choir,” said Alexander. “Now it is totally different, especially with Musica Intima because we do a lot of school workshops in Canada and the U.S. Now there is lots of guys in choir.”
While Musica Intima has been a internationally touring vocal ensemble for the past 20 years, Alexander has been with the group for only seven years, but discovered them long before that. He was introduced to them in high school and bought their album.
“I remember listening to it and thinking, ‘Wow I will never be that good,’” said Alexander.
After going on to study orchestral percussion at UBC and training in classical voice at Vancouver Community College, Alexander auditioned for Musica Intima in 2004. He was offered a position as a tenor, but he declined because he is a baritone. The following year he was offered the position he wanted and has been with them ever since. He also sings with a church choir in Vancouver, the Vancouver Cantata singers and outside of the choral world he sings opera.
Founded in 1992, Musica Intima has become an integral part of Vancouver’s cultural fabric. In addition to an annual series of self-produced concerts, Musica Intima collaborates with other arts organizations. Since he started singing, Alexander has noticed an explosion of ensembles trending on television and in pop culture.
“Absolutely there has been a huge leap in number of kids who are singing, choirs in high schools are experiencing higher turnout and audiences for our concerts and getting younger,” said Alexander.
Musica Intima regularly commissions and premieres works by Canada’s leading composers. This includes the Okanagan’s Imant Raminish, who is the founder of the Youth Symphony of the Okanagan. In collaboration with the Stó:lō Nation. Raminish and B.C. composer Ed Henderson created musical interpretations for Musica Intima.
“For our fall concert we performed some of his work and premiered it last month, that piece is unfortunately not on our touring program. We will have a bit of Canadian content, folk songs and some more popular stuff like As So It Goes by Billy Joel and In My Life which is a Beatles tune that was arranged by New York Voices. We are doing a mix of classic favourites to more contemporary things the audience will love and be singing along to in their heads,” said Alexander.
The vocal ensemble has released seven commercial recordings, including the Juno award-nominated debut album in 1998. The ensemble’s all-Canadian album Into Light (2010) won a Western Canadian Music Award for Classical Album of the Year and garnered two Juno nominations. Alexander said they are currently working on a Christmas program and have plans to record another album.
Musica Intima is performing on Friday at 7:30 p.m. as part of the South Okanagan Concert Society’s annual series. The performance takes place at the temporary venue of Oliver Alliance Church. Tickets for this show are $20 and students 17 and under are free. They are available at Beyond Bliss, Imperial Office Pro or at the door. One person can attend four concerts, two people can attend two concerts or four people can attend one concert with the pass.
For Alexander it will be a homecoming of sorts. He said he spent many summers on his grandparents’ orchard as a child and occasionally singing at their church.
“This show is going to be a lot of fun and everyone should expect to be entertained. They will hear some songs that they know and will be able to hum along with, some things they maybe haven’t heard but are very beautiful and will definitely tug at the heart strings,” said Alexander. “It is a very pleasing oral experience.”