Kokopelli welcomes newest exchange chorister

Kokopelli Choirs are thrilled to welcome their 16th exchange chorister. Sokhi Mfenyana will be living in Edmonton and singing with Kokopelli and Òran until mid-July 2018, representing her home choir (and Kokopelli's South African sister choir) University of Pretoria Youth Choir (UPYC). We look forward to introducing Sokhi to Edmonton audiences, and to providing her with an eventful and fulfilling exchange experience. Welcome, Sokhi!

Journey, the Kokopelli “choir crawl,” is back by popular demand! In a one-of-a-kind musical event, all six Kokopelli Choirs (plus our traditional guests the Brail Tones) will spread out Saturday, May 27 along Edmonton’s Church Street Heritage Area. It’s a literal choral journey, as audience members travel from venue to historic venue along 96 Street. Along the way they’ll enjoy 15-minute sets by each of the choirs.

“We introduced this idea two years ago, and the audience absolutely loved it,” said Kokopelli Artistic Director Scott Leithead. “It created a real festival atmosphere, with people strolling up and down the street to explore buildings and hear choirs. Church Street has so many lovely old venues, and most Edmontonians have never been inside them.”

The afternoon wraps up with a raucous African massed-choir singalong in the park.

Audience members can check in at Sacred Heart Church (10821 96 St.) before 3:00 p.m. Saturday, May 27, pick up a map and program, and then choose their own paths through the various performance venues—all within easy walking distance. Tickets ($20, $15 students) are available from individual choristers, from Tix on the Square (tixonthesquare.ca) and at the Sacred Heart door.


Kokopelli welcomes Rajaton (Winspear Apr 12)

Kokopelli is thrilled to welcome (and sing with!) world renowned Finnish vocal ensemble Rajaton, Wednesday, April 12, 7:30 p.m., at the Winspear Centre.

The concert marks the latest chapter in the long-standing friendship and collaboration between our choir and this stunningly talented sextet. Kokopelli has connected with Rajaton for numerous workshops over the years, and has commissioned and premiered several original choral works composed by Rajaton members.

Read a review from a 2014 Rajaton concert at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center

Alumni profiles: Aidan Ferguson

As part of our preparations for our 20th anniversary weekend (June 4-5, 2016), we present a small series of alumni profiles, celebrating the profound and enduring role Kokopelli plays in the lives of many of its choristers.

AidanAidan Ferguson
Kokopelli 00-03
’Nuf Sed 00-02

In 2000, I was a member of the Edmonton Youth Choir that Scott Leithead was conducting at the time. In the spring of that year I went through an extremely trying time in my life; I felt lost, depressed and alone. I remember being on the phone with Scott on a Sunday night explaining what had happened and he asked me to come to a Kokopelli Choirs rehearsal. I didn’t know how that would change my situation, but I knew well enough to trust Scott.

On Wednesday, my mom drove me to the rehearsal. I was sure I would step into the room and be instantly viewed as the outsider, with questions of “Who is this new girl, we have enough sopranos.” Instead I was greeted with hugs, acceptance and words of excitement that I was there.

That day my life changed.

Music became my way of connecting to people, my way of expressing myself. Scott’s love and support is to this day a driving force in my life. At 18, after only two and a half years in Kokopelli (a short time for most Kokopelli members), I moved to Paris to be a nanny. Before I left, Scott gave me a journal and wrote in the first two pages. Scroll down to view a picture of the second.

I have brought this journal with me all over the world: to Paris when I was a nanny, to Montreal when I moved for University to study music, to countless Opera/Singing gigs around the world, to Africa when my cousin got married, to Switzerland last year when I sang with Theater Basel’s Opera company for a year and now it is here with me in Calgary. I always had intentions to write about my journeys, but of course failed as I am horrible at keeping a journal.

I have read those two pages from Scott hundreds of times, and they always remind me that, even though I am far from those I love, they are supporting my journey and are always there to lean on whenever I need them.

Scott Leithead is more than just a choral conductor; he has an ability not only to see talents, strengths, and beauty in people, but to then guide those people to see those things in themselves. I know my story is just one of the thousands of lives Scott has changed.

He is an inspiration and I am so lucky to have him in my life. Love you, Scooter.

Aidan journal

Alumni profiles: Rathi Kumar

As part of our preparations for our 20th anniversary weekend (June 4-5, 2016), we present a small series of alumni profiles, celebrating the profound and enduring role Kokopelli plays in the lives of many of its choristers.

Rathi KumarRathi Kumar
London, U.K.
Kokopelli 1998-2002
Òran 2002-08
’Nuf Sed 1999-2008

I started singing in Kokopelli when I was 14 years old. Looking back, I could never have foreseen the impact this organization would have on my life.

I found out about the choir during the Fringe in the summer of ’98. I was there with a couple of friends I grew up with and an a cappella group made up of current and past singers from Kokopelli/Vic were performing (I think they were called ‘The Polyesters’... I’m sure Jenica will remember!). That was the first time I’d really heard a cappella music in that format and I just knew that I wanted to sing like that in harmony with people. I had a chat with Jason St. Laurent (former Polyester and Kokopelli alumnus) after their performance and he told me about Kokopelli and how to sign up for an audition.

I still remember how badly I wanted to be a part of this group, even though I had yet to hear the choir perform. It speaks to the way each member of the organisation really draws you in and makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than anything you could have previously imagined. Of course, much of that has to do with Scott Leithead and his willingness to be excellent and inclusive at the same time (an attitude he passes along to everyone fortunate enough to cross his path). The music education I received while singing in his choirs fuelled my passion  to study music in university and gave me the skills to marry the emotional aspects of music with the technical.

I now live in London, England and work in an amazing venue called the Roundhouse, which puts on music, circus and theatre productions in a historic 1847 railway building. The Roundhouse also subsidizes creative projects for young people aged 11–25 and gives them exclusive use of the studios beneath our main space.

I am a project manager by day, but by night I am the assistant director of the Roundhouse Choir, a project run through the Paul Hamlyn Roundhouse Studios for 16–25 year olds. Through my involvement in the Roundhouse Choir, I have been fortunate enough to work with popular music stars such as Imogen Heap, Mark Ronson, Boy George, Heaven 17, Sam Lee, Spiritualized, Jamie Cullum and now most recently Camille O’Sullivan, as well as conductors and composers such as Eriks Esenvalds, Steven Layton and Hugh Brunt. I am confident these opportunities would not have presented themselves had I not gained a monumental amount of choral experience singing in Kokopelli and Oran.

I currently sing (and serve as treasurer) in a choir called Sound. I also sit on the board of directors of an organization called Voices Now, which puts on choral festivals every other year and is promoting a movement in the UK to get as many people singing in choirs as possible. Through these avenues I have heard countless choirs from across the country, and I can say with confidence that what is happening in Edmonton, Alberta in the Kokopelli Choir Association is a very rare and precious thing. I feel privileged to have been part of it.

I truly believe that this organization made me the person I am today and for that I am grateful. It has also given me a community of friends like no other, who I miss dearly and can’t wait to be reunited with at the 20th anniversary.