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Suffering from Bach withdrawal?

Pax Cantata Chorus founded to meet a musical need

Beth Downey Sawatzky
By Beth Downey Sawatzky, Manitoba Correspondent
Apr 05, 2017 | Volume 21 Issue 8

Sean Gortzen, founder and conductor of Winnipeg’s new Pax Cantata Chorus, right, is pictured with other members at a rehearsal before their first concert, held April 2, 2017, at Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church. (Photo by Beth Downey Sawatzky)

Sean Gortzen got his first taste of baroque cantata repertoire during his time at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), both on campus and through his involvement with local groups like the Mennonite Festival Chorus.

Captivated by the music, it became a dream of his to sing in a chorus in which he could explore the full range and depth of the genre. Following his graduation in the spring of 2016, he learned that many of his colleagues were also looking for groups to sing with, like they had during their university days.

With no Mennonite Festival Chorus concerts on the horizon, Gortzen took inspiration from his own musical history and struck up the Pax Cantata Chorus. He has “big ideas” for the group, which is now preparing its first concert, and hopes to make local cooperation a cornerstone of its operations.

“My goal for the choir is to provide high-quality music, and to be a fun social space where alumni and others can get together,” he says. “In the future. I'm hopeful we can collaborate more closely with other groups and with CMU, to act as perhaps a 'next step' for graduating, or upper-level, students, especially those in conducting.”

Fellow alumnus Giovanni Verrelli shares Gortzen's ambition for the group. He says he joined up because “it didn't seem like an option to quit singing entirely after doing it intensely for four years!” Beyond the richness of the music, he calls it “a great way to stay in touch with CMU alumni, and to strengthen friendship with each other and God.”

The Pax Cantata Chorus gave its first concert, “O come let us sing,” at Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church in Winnipeg on April 2, 2017.

Giovanni Verrilli rehearses for Winnipeg’s Pax Cantata Chorus’s first concert, held April 2 at Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church.  (Photo by Beth Downey Sawatzky)


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