Victoria Choral Society embraces multimedia for ethnic show

Members of the Victoria Choral Society

Members of the Victoria Choral Society

African, Middle Eastern rhythms spice up songlist

The Victoria Choral Society is changing it up with a multimedia performance featuring African voices from the 1960s.

On Sunday (March 13), the group of 122 singers is performing its rendition of African Sanctus, a show written by David Fanshawe, a British composer who passed away last summer.

“We had programmed it before he passed away,” said Giuseppe Pietraroia, VCS music director and conductor.

African Sanctus is a collaboration of Western music with a combination of Middle Eastern and African music.

“I wanted to do something a little different,” Pietraroia said. “It’s kind of a celebratory piece of all music in general. “This will get people excited and want to move around and dance.”

It is a unique performance for the group that will be accompanied by music and chants from the Middle East and Africa, recorded by Fanshawe in the 1960s during his travels. The  show was inspired by Fanshawe’s experiences in the Middle East and Africa.

More than 350 of Fanshawe’s personal photos of his travels will be projected on a screen during the performance, giving the audience a chance to put faces to the voices on the recordings, Pietraroia said. “It’s something very different from the choral society.”

Live musicians are also incorporated into the show playing piano, electric guitar, electric bass and three percussionists playing a variety of instruments.

“It’s challenging getting everyone packed up on stage,” Pietraroia said, explaining that screen is displayed where the singers normally go. “In this piece there are a number of people, but there is also all the technical (aspects) too.”

Other than facing limited space, the music itself is rhythmically challenging, he said.

Prior to the main performance, the Victoria Percussion Orchestra is performing with its founder and conductor Jordan Hanson. The musicians are performing African drumming that will set a tone for the main performance.

African Sanctus happens at 2:30 p.m. in the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium. Tickets are $32 ($20 for students) and are available at the UVic ticket centre in University Centre, by phone at 250-721-8480 or online at

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