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Victoria Choral Society explores tales of world conflict and immigration

The choir performs The Houses Stand Not Far Apart and Golden Harvest UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium on Sunday, May 19
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The Victoria Choral Society. (Jon Mark)

On Sunday, May 19, the Victoria Choral Society will present two renowned pieces digging into the topics of world harmony and immigration at UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium at 2:30 p.m.

Under music director Brian Wismath, the mixed-voice symphonic choir will perform The Houses Stand Not Far Apart by John Estacio and Golden Harvest by Larysa Kuzmenko.

The oratorio Golden Harvest, commissioned in 2016 by conductor Laurence Ewashko, celebrates the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada. Ewashko chose Ukrainian-Canadian composer Larysa Kuzmenko for her heritage, depth of knowledge of Ukrainian culture and her lyrical, accessible musical style.

Librettist Talia Zajac created the Ukrainian/French/English text which conveys the story and challenges of early twentieth-century immigration to Canada.

The oratorio’s title refers to the introduction of rust-resistant Halychanka spring wheat from Ukraine across the Canadian prairies, which helped turn the area into “Canada’s breadbasket,” and Ukrainian immigration into a success story.

Soprano and baritone soloists represent the mother and father of the story’s Ukrainian immigrant family.

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The Houses Stand Not Far Apart is a cantata that tells the story of two identical houses side by side but separated by a river. In each house, families of three generations celebrate life with dancing and love, yet there is no understanding between the families; only hatred dividing them just as the river separates them.

This 3-movement, 30-minute piece ends with the words, “Let doubt, resentment and anger cease, And may you find yourselves at last in peace.”

Composed by Edmonton’s Juno-nominated John Estacio with Canadian playwright John Murrell, the piece was inspired in 2008 amid world conflicts.

John Estacio will join Brian Wismath on stage to converse on this choral work.

Tickets ($35 for adults, $10 for students) are available in person at the UVic Ticket Centre, by phone at 250-721-8480, or online at tickets.uvic.ca.