Caelis Academy Ensemble: Ottawa’s newest concert choir

CAELIS ACADEMY ENSEMBLE

Caelis Academy Ensemble, Ottawa’s newest concert choir, appears in its inaugural concert on Thursday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Anglican Church, 1230 Bank Street at Cameron Avenue. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students. Photo: Patricia Wilson

by Matthew Larkin

Churches and monasteries were centres of learning and creativity in mediaeval Europe and many of these institutions made great efforts to ensure that young people of the surrounding communities had access to masterworks of literature and music. Thus, their imaginations might be piqued and their knowledge of their cultural heritage might be increased and enhanced.

This tradition of academic and cultural excellence has survived many centuries of upheaval and dramatic change. And so it is that in many places in the world today great symbols of western art and culture are seen as a necessary and vibrant part of a child’s education and experience. For surely it is through the knowledge of the past that an awareness of the present is obtained and with it a pathway to the future becomes just a little clearer.

I have endeavoured for more than 20 years to serve this vision through my work as director of music at two historic Ottawa churches: St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the Glebe and Christ Church Cathedral. Both places maintained and continue to maintain vibrant ministries of music. And at the centre of it all are real opportunities for musical instruction and experience for young people.

After 14 years in the latter post, I decided earlier this year to try to realize a long-time ambition and began an independent academy choir that specializes in sacred and secular masterworks, seeking to achieve the highest possible standards of performance in the context of an enlightened musical education. Thus, Caelis Academy Ensemble was born this summer and began its life as a concert choir in September.

The choir is founded on the principle that the liberal arts and classics are passageways to enlightenment and musical masterworks bequeathed to us offer so much to boys and girls in an age of media bombardment and social uncertainty. Although still in the fledgling stages, Caelis (the Latin word for “heaven”) has welcomed this fall 18 boy and girl sopranos ranging in age from 11 to 17 whose efforts are robustly supported by 14 professional adult singers including several of Ottawa’s finest choral musicians.

We rehearse each week at Trinity Anglican Church and are preparing an exciting concert season, which debuts on Thursday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. with a program of magnificent baroque music that includes two Cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach alongside works by Henry Purcell and Dietrich Buxtehude. The Ottawa Baroque Consort (an outstanding chamber orchestra) will join us for this program. Tickets for the concert are available by calling 613-862-4106, or emailing caelisacademyensemble@gmail.com.

Ottawa is home to a number of outstanding cultural institutions and our community is rightfully proud of several fine choral ensembles. My hope is that Caelis will find its own unique place within our local family of choirs.

This company of musicians offers audiences a stellar group of young artists learning and performing at the highest professional levels. I warmly welcome everyone to come and experience this level of talent and achievement, right here in our neighbourhood.

Caelis welcomes inquiries from boys and girls ages 11–17; please call 613-862-4106, or email caelisacademyensemble@gmail.com to arrange an audition. Visit www.caelisacademyensemble.com for more information. Find us on Facebook!

Matthew Larkin is the founder and artistic director of Caelis Academy Ensemble. He has enjoyed living in Old Ottawa South since 1999.

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