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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.

Alumni profiles: Matheus Tuhafeni Michael

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.

Michael TuhafeniMatheus Tuhafeni Michael
Swakopmund, Namibia
Exchange chorister to Kokopelli, 2009

I first met Kokopelli on their second tour to Namibia. I was a member of Mascato Coastal Youth Choir at the time, and we had beautiful concerts together.  In 2008 Scott Leithead returned to Namibia on sabbatical, working with Mascato and other choirs around Namibia. During that trip, Scott also formed the nin’jazz ensemble, which I joined.

At that point I was still in high school. I had many ambitions for my life, but my great-grandmother who raised me had just passed away at that time and I was living alone. I became a bit lost in my own world.

When I came to Canada in 2009 on exchange to Kokopelli, it was the first time I had spent an extended period away from Namibia and in particular Swakopmund, my hometown. In Canada, everything was very new and exciting, and I met great people everywhere I went. Until that point in my life I had always been very shy, but the exchange put me in a position where I was not only representing myself, but Mascato and Kokopelli as well. In those six months, I learned a lot about myself, people, and community through music.

I’m currently studying towards a BA Music at The Free State University in South Africa. The turning point came when I rejoined Kokopelli for its 2013 tour of South Africa and Swaziland. One night after a performance I had a chat in Scott’s room, with Cieran and Mxolisi and Scott. When I left that room, my life was on a new path (I never told them this). For this and many more life opportunities I can thank my Kokopelli family and Scott himself.

Since then, I have earned a diploma in Tourism, Travel and Hospitality management from the International University of Management and an Advanced Diploma in African Performing Arts from the College of The Arts. In 2015 I represented the College of The Arts at the Singing and Dance symposium for African folk music and dance held in Nanjing, China and later that year got invited to tour with Spirit ensemble to China, taking part in the 15th Nanjing Arts and Culture Festival.

I really want to take this opportunity to thank everyone from Kokopelli. You have played a big role in shaping my life. Ondapandula (“I’m thankful” in Oshiwambo).

Alumni profiles: Keith Rempel

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.
Keith RempelKeith Rempel
Kokopelli member 03/04–Dec. 2006’
Nuf Sed member03/04–04/05
TIME bassist 03/04–10/11

When I first moved to Edmonton in 2003, Kokopelli and the TIME Association jazz choirs became a huge part of my life. It was my first time living on my own, but the open and supportive nature of the Kokopelli community made the transition much easier. Within a few months I made several lifelong friends. Choir parents regularly offered me rides, home-cooked meals, and in some cases a temporary home.

The lessons I learned in Kokopelli have been invaluable to my career as a freelance bassist. The vocal instruction offered by the choir helped me become a better harmony singer. This has been a great asset to me in a number of bands. In addition to vocal technique, my time in Kokopelli taught me a lot about acceptance and working with others.

I still live in Edmonton, making my living as a professional musician. I play a wide variety of music, including jazz, Latin, and folk. Music has taken me everywhere from Santiago, Chile, to Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan. It has given me the means to support myself in a career that I love.

Without the encouragement of Scott Leithead and the Kokopelli/TIME choir community I may never have made the life-altering decision to study music at Grant MacEwan. I am forever grateful for my good memories and enduring friendships rooted in the Kokopelli organization.