Archive for the ‘Photo Essays’ Category

Missa Gaia Photos

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Karen warming up the choir
KSS finished off its subscription season with a heartfelt presentation of Missa Gaia / Earth Mass last night. Scroll down to enjoy some photo memories from the concert. Above and below, Karen warms up the choir before the show.
KSS warming up before the show
Before the music starts, Karen introduces this phenomenal work, which celebrates planet earth an all the creatures on it.
Karen introducing Missa Gaia
And the music begins…
Karen, Denise Pelley and the Karen Schuessler Singers
Guest soloist Paul Grambo rocked the house with the energetic Beatitudes.
Paul Grambo
Other stellar musicians included pianist Steve Holowitz, sax player David Wiffen, Margaret Stowe on guitar, Steve Clark on bass, and organist Ronald Fox. Percussionists Rob Larose and Alfredo Caxaj thrill the crowd in Ubi Caritas, below.
Alfredo Caxaj and Rob Larose
The incomparable Denise Pelley held the audience spellbound with her moving interpretations of Mystery and His Eye is on the Sparrow.
Denise Pelley
Denise Pelley
Denise Pelley
At least one audience member was overheard to say “I don’t want to leave,” after the concert was finished.
Standing ovation
Special guests from Salthaven Rehabilitation and Education Centre, our partner for this concert, were waiting to greet our patrons at the after-concert reception. Below is a barn owl – rare in this part of Canada – and his young handler.
Salthaven barn owl
Brian Salt, founder of Salthaven, introduces another “animal ambassador,” a red-tailed hawk. During the winter he visits schools and service groups, educating people about the amazing work that Salthaven does.
Salthaven red-tailed hawk
Another raptor guest enchants concert-goers, below. Founded 25 years ago, Salthaven rehabilitates sick and injured wildlife, and is currently working on a capital fundraising campaign for a new, $2.5 million clinic that will allow them to admit virtually all the animals that they get calls about each year. They are currently able to admit only about 20% animals that are brought to their attention.

Please visit the Salthaven website – – to learn more about the vital work that this organization does. Be sure to check out the photo gallery of patients, and read the many heartwarming stories of animals rescued, treated and released back into their natural habitats.
Salthaven raptor

River Dress Rehearsal

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

River rehearsal #2
I love sitting in on KSS dress rehearsals, because it’s often the first time I can get a feel for how the whole concert fits together. I didn’t know ahead of time how a river-themed program was going to “gel”… and was unexpectedly moved by many of the songs and readings as the evening unfolded. Sometimes I think we don’t realize how lucky we are here in London, to live along a river…
River rehearsal #3
The singers and musicians assembled for 7:30 p.m.
River rehearsal #4
Karen didn’t waste any time getting to work.
Don Fleckser #1
One of our special guests for this concert is London theatre personality Don Fleckser. Don is narrating a number of readings about rivers, which are interspersed between the songs. Selections include a history of the Thames from the perspective of the Native Canadians and European settlers, as well as poetry and prose about rivers in general.
Don Fleckser #2
Local singer/songwriters Kevin White (below) and Roxanne Andrighetti will be performing their songs about rivers and/or the Thames.
Kevin White
Of special interest to me were our two commissions by local composer Jeff Smallman. We are also featuring several other Smallman works on the program. All of Smallman’s work is stunningly beautiful; I was especially taken with Becalmed, set to poetry by Native Canadian poet Pauline Johnson. One of our commissions requires four hands at the piano – a task capably undertaken by KSS accompanist Ron Fox and chorister Marque Smith.
River rehearsal #7
River rehearsal #5
Other musicians on the program include Rob Larose on percussion, Steve Clark on bass, and flautist Amy O’Neill.
River rehearsal #1
Chorister John McFall has assembled a slideshow of river photographs that will provide a visual counterpoint to four of the songs on the program. There will also be an art show after the concert, featuring works by artists from The River Project: 19 Artists Turn to the Thames. It promises to be a great evening. Find more details about the concert here.
River rehearsal #6
Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is KSS’ Director of Communications.

KSS River Photos

Friday, May 21st, 2010

KSS by the Thames #1
Some of the KSS choristers recently participated in a photo shoot on the banks of the Thames. The primary location was the boat launch at Wonderland and Riverside, above.
KSS by the Thames #2
Even Karen’s dog, Tobey, got in on the act…
KSS and Tobey

Love is in the Air – Looking Back

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Audience #2
I showed up early for the KSS Love is in the Air concert to take some behind-the-scenes photos, and make sure I remembered how to work the video camera that KSS uses to create archive recordings of its concerts. The audience always shows up early, and the anticipation in the room was high as patrons waited for the concert to begin.
Rehearsing before show #3
I slipped backstage to check on the singers. They were assembling to warm up before the show.
Return music here
Meanwhile the choir’s librarian was sorting extra music that singers had already turned in.
Sorting music
Rehearsing before show #1
Karen warmed up the singers, and then began the pre-concert routine of reminding everyone which aspects of each song to focus on.
Rehearsing before show #2
Instead of their usual formal concert dress, the choir wore casual black, with red ties or scarves, for their evening of jazz.
David Burghardt
Back in the church sanctuary, announcer David Burghardt warmed up the audience.
And the concert began.
After Four #1
Each half of the program opened with a set of Shakesperean songs and sonnets set by jazz legend George Shearing. Before each piece was sung, local theatrical talents David Wasse and Bronwyn Powell read the poem aloud. This married couple’s interpretations of Shakespeare’s words had the audience enthralled and entertained.
After Four #2
Special guests After Four (left to right: Jenny Nauta, Dave Williams, Theresa Wallis and Ron Nauta) got toes tapping with their swinging, scat-filled versions of jazz standards and popular songs arranged by the talented Ron Nauta.
KSS and After Four
After Four even joined KSS for a few numbers, including the energetic Blue Skies, which closed the first half of the program.
Blue Skies sheet music
This Marriage sheet music
I was eagerly anticipating the only non-jazz piece on the program – Eric Whitacre’s This Marriage. Karen had chosen it months ago, before she settled on the jazz format for the concert, and couldn’t bear to cut it from the program. I’m glad she left it in; I’d heard the song ahead of time on YouTube, and was deeply touched by the lyrics and harmonies. Set to poetry by the Sufi mystic Rumi, it brought tears to my eyes when I finally heard it performed by KSS.

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

I was especially awestruck by how Whitacre finished the song with sung ahhs and ooo’s – an interesting interpretation of the final line. See Whitacre himself conducting another performance of the piece (sung by the Ole Miss Concert Singers), below.

Sing, Sing, Sing
One of the highlights of the evening for some of our patrons, I’m sure, was when the audience got to participate in the final song (Sing, Sing, Sing) by snapping along in rhythm, conducted by Karen.
Love is in the Air bows
Our next concert, River! (Saturday, May 29, 2010), celebrates the Thames, and will feature the world premiere of a new song commissioned by KSS, composed by Londoner Jeff Smallman.

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is the KSS Director of Communications

KSS in the London Free Press

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

London Free Press article
Tonight’s KSS concert is featured today in the London Free Press entertainment section. Check out the online story here.

The Freeps attended this week’s Tuesday night rehearsal, so there are also some added features to the online story – a photo gallery and a short rehearsal video.

A Fall Rehearsal

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

KSS rehearsing #02
KSS rehearses pretty much every Tuesday night from early September until late May at Wesley-Knox United Church in London, Ontario. The singers usually meet in a large, upstairs Sunday School room, but as a concert date draws nearer they move to the sanctuary, so that Karen and the singers can better prepare for their upcoming performance.
KSS rehearsing #03
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 is a chilly autumn evening. Some choir members arrive early to set up the risers and chairs in performance formation, while others gather closer to the 7:30 p.m. start time. Coats and bags are left among the pews near the front of the sanctuary, and after consulting a seating chart near Karen’s podium, the singers take their places. The choir’s accompanist, Ron Fox, is seated at the piano. A small electronic keyboard at Karen’s right is used for warm-ups and demonstrations.
KSS rehearsing #06
At 7:30 p.m., after a brief warm-up, the singers don’t waste any time in getting to work. Tonight they have a busy two hours ahead of them. (The remaining rehearsals leading up to the first concert of the 2009/10 subscription season will each be at least 2 1/2 hours long.)
KSS rehearsing #07
Karen comes prepared with several instructions for marking the score of Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with breath marks, rests, dynamics and other expressive notations. Later in the rehearsal the choir will turn to Schubert’s Mass in G, which many of them have sung before.
Karen conducting #03
In order to get the singers accustomed to concert tempi, Karen also occasionally uses a metronome to demonstrate tempo changes within movements.
Karen conducting #04
The choir runs through the Nelson Mass, focusing on the challenging sections in each movement.
KSS rehearsing #05
The final concert will also feature a full orchestra, not present at this rehearsal. Karen prepares the singers for the vocal quality and colour that they will need to project once the musicians are finally present, however.
Karen conducting #08
The choir stands for most of the rehearsal, to help the singers access the best possible vocal support in order to produce the rich sounds that this demanding music requires.
Karen conducting #09
KSS rehearsals can often be peppered with joking and good-natured banter during the brief singing breaks, but tonight Karen has a number of movements and rehearsal notes to get through, and her intensity is matched by that of the singers.
KSS rehearsing #04
Standing for two hours can be exhausting, however, and a short, much-needed break helps them rest and re-energize before starting in again.
Karen conducting #10
Besides technical corrections, Karen also intersperses the rehearsal with information about the background of the Haydn work. She reminds the singers that the subtitle for this particular mass is “Mass in Times of Distress,” which makes it even more relevant for our own troubled period in history.
Karen conducting #02
Tonight a video camera is set up, recording the choir. Reviewing the playback helps Karen demonstrate certain corrections for the singers.
Karen conducting #01
The ultimate goal as rehearsals continue is to get to the place where the singers have embodied the music and lyrics so well that they can just let the music happen, following Karen’s lead.
KSS rehearsing #08
The rhythm of a rehearsal is familiar to any choral singer: Singing, listening to the conductor, marking the score, singing again…

Hearing and feeling the music come alive all around you is one of the greatest physical and emotional experiences.
Karen conducting #07
With everyone intent on doing their own part, it can be easy to get too caught up in the small details.
Karen conducting #06
But when the moment finally comes that the singer knows the music and can focus almost exclusively on the conductor, the bigger picture comes back into focus.
Karen conducting #05
The Haydn mass is full of many exquisite moments – shimmering sound, dance-like diversions, swelling crescendos – that when the singers finally “get it,” magic then becomes possible, and the composer’s intentions can become fully realized. The music takes on a life of its own.
Music score #02
At the end of the night, the singers dismantle the risers, put away their chairs, gather their scores and head out into the cold darkness, absorbing everything they’ve heard and experienced in the last two hours. For the following seven days they’ll be busy going over their music, incorporating their new instructions, until the process is taken up once again at the next rehearsal.
Music score #01

2009/10 Subscription Mailing

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

2009/2010 season brochure
The end of summer means that it’s time, once again, to mail out the KSS season brochure. Last Tuesday night a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers gathered to do what is probably one of the most monotonous tasks ever conceived: label and stuff envelopes.

I’d never helped with the brochure stuffing before, but showed up at the required time with a pair of willing hands and an open mind. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be as dreary as I feared.
Envelope stuffing bee
Nobody wasted any time. We filled two long tables, and the assembly line began. With our heads bowed at our respective tasks and our hands busy, the conversations began to hum, until soon the room reverberated with raucous laughter peppered by the occasional sounds of someone reciting all their addresses in Italian.
Envelopes waiting to be stuffed
The drudgery of slapping address labels on envelopes was forgotten as I got lost in conversation with strangers and old friends. We spent the evening catching up on each others’ lives, and at some point my BlackBerry even got passed around as people stole a look at my new kittens. I got asked about my new job, and salivated to hear about one couple’s planned trip to Italy (the inspiration behind the aforementioned recitation of Italian).
Hands hard at work
A few people debated the relative merits of keeping their piles of envelopes sorted or leaving them messy; whenever I occasionally stopped my stuffing to take photos of the proceedings, I got a lot of flack not working hard enough, or for making people feel self-conscious. It was also suggested that I was taking too many close-ups of the envelopes.
Brochures waiting to be stuffed
I discovered that a KSS envelope-stuffing bee is like a well-oiled machine, and that many hands make light work. Also that a promised trip to the Roadhouse is excellent impetus to finish a job sooner rather than later.
KSS return address
What I learned best, however, is that a bunch of people who really believe in something can find a way to get the job done quickly and have fun at the same time. These people feel like family to me; when we packed up to go at the end of the night, I was satiated, as if I’d just eaten a good meal. I felt fed.
Stuffed envelopes
Some facts from our envelope-stuffing coordinator, John McFall:

“We attached labels to, inserted letters and brochures, and sealed close to 2600 envelopes. All this, in less than two-and-a-half hours! What a team.”

Interested in being added to the KSS mailing list? Call 519-455-1668, or e-mail contact(at)

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is a former KSS chorister and the current Director of Communications.