Choral ensemble harmonious both on stage and off 

Who: musica intima

Where: MY (Millennium) Place

When: Saturday, Dec. 20

Tickets: $20-$30

John Lennon may have Imagined a utopian society but Vancouver chamber choir musica intima is living the dream. Imagine no baton-wielding commandant barking that one of the altos is singing off-key. It isn’t hard to do when you hear intima’s seamless a cappella harmonies.

Functioning as an "artistic co-operative," musica intima members take turns leading songs from within. During a performance, says bass Derrick Christian; no one other than the performers themselves can tell which member is responsible for maintaining the direction of each intricate arrangement.

This radical self-governance would likely cause anarchy among the church-lady set, but it’s working exceptionally well for the youthful members of musica intima. The choir formed as an octet in 1992, increasing to its current 12-voice makeup in 1994. After three straight wins at the biennial CBC choral competition the choir went pro and have since been wowing classical music fans with arrangements of centuries-old music sung with 21 st Century vigour.

Christian, who grew up vacationing in Whistler and lived in town briefly in the late 1980s, joined the group when they expanded to 12 voices in the mid-90s. He says since then the choir has gone through several members. To join musica intima requires a voice audition, but a personality audition he notes, is almost more important.

"We like to have people we know we can get along with. When there’s no one in charge, it’s important we all get along because we can settle all our disputes by ourselves," he says sagely.

But, he continues, those in tune with the choral scene tend naturally to be team players, meaning less of the diva-egotism stereotypical of classical soloists.

"There’s inherent co-operation with the genre," he notes. "We’re a chamber ensemble, we’re musicians. It’s about co-ordinating many people together, whereas with soloists everything is on their shoulders."

One thing musica intima seems to have on its shoulders, however, is a rebirth of sorts for classical choral music. With their youth and vitality they are being heralded as the new face of the genre, doing for chamber choirs what Denise Djokic is doing for classical cello, adding a, dare we say, certain sexiness?

But Christian isn’t afraid of the word.

"We want to make choral music exciting and sexy and hip," he confirms. "That’s the way we feel about it. We’re all young-ish and we’re passionate about choral music. So that must be sexy."

Saturday evening’s show will be the third annual Christmas performance in Whistler for musica intima. Christian says to expect a classic concert of a cappella Christmas-themed music, during which they will premiere four new arrangements.

The ensemble’s appearance is on behalf of Alta Lake School, which will be hosting a silent auction fundraiser prior to, and at intermission. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for students and seniors. Call 604-935-8410 for information.

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