With praise and awards following this 60-men choir from around the world, Chor Leoni is stepping onto a Yellowknife stage for the first time this month.
The Vancouver-based group is playing the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre March 26 and are set to deliver a powerful performance.
“I think if you can hear a camera shutter (in the NACC theatre), just imagine what 60 performers on stage will sound like and it will really resonate,” said Dean Eskich, manager of communications at NACC.
While the choir is known for its eclectic repertoire, artistic director Erick Lichte promises a special show for Yellowknife.
Adding to their usual set, the choir is performing lyrics by Leonard Cohen – from a poem only they were granted permission to use.
“We’re one of the only people to use his words that wasn’t coming from Cohen himself,” Lichte explained. “It’s an incredibly beautiful and moving piece.”
Chor Leoni was granted permission to use Cohen’s words, simply from calling up and asking before Cohen’s passing.
Additionally, Chor Leoni is constantly commissioning new pieces that span from older classical music to pop, folk and even Balinese and Bollywood tunes – which they will feature at the Yellowknife performance.
Selling more than 15,000 tickets around the globe each year, Chor Leoni is considered one of the most active amateur choirs in North America.
“That’s amazing for an amateur choir,” said Lichte of their success. “It’s sort of preposterous.”
Their performances have taken them from North America to Italy, Bosnia to Bali and have won them numerous awards along the way, including several gold medals at the Singapore International Choral Festival.
They’re also recognized right at home, having been awarded first place at the CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs.
“We worked hard to create this big and beautiful organization,” said Lichte. “I’m so proud of what we’ve been doing.”
While the choir was originally founded by Diane Loomer C.M. in 1992, Lichte has been acting as artistic director for the last six years.
While Lichte had previously performed with Chor Leoni in past festivals, the process of applying for the position took a year, he explained, given it was an international search.
Prior to joining the crew, Lichte ran an impressive career of his own that all began with a male choir he began in Minnesota.
“It was supposed to be just us guys getting together for fun,” he said. “But we kept working on that and started touring in college and then turned it into a summer job.”
By 2000, the group had turned into a full-time gig, making it one of two full-time professional singing groups in the U.S.
As Chor Leoni’s popularity grows, Lichte said their goal is to do more than sell tickets, but to give back to their community as well.
He mentioned every spring the musicians hosts a free program called MyVoice, in which men between twelve and twenty years old join together to create a choir.
They are trained to perform at a weekend-long festival at Vancouver’s Chan Centre, alongside Chor Leoni.
This past year, it brought together 150 young men.
“What it boils down to is, we really believe in the transformative power of singing,” added Lichte. “We also realize there’s a stigma around guys singing … But, it’s a natural thing for guys to do.”
The NACC performance takes place March 26 at 7:30 pm.