musica intima | The Canadian Encyclopedia


musica intima

musica intima. Vancouver-based, conductorless a cappella chamber choir of 12 voices. musica intima was begun in the early 1990s as an informal collective of local musicians and university students.

musica intima

musica intima. Vancouver-based, conductorless a cappella chamber choir of 12 voices. musica intima was begun in the early 1990s as an informal collective of local musicians and university students. The 12-letter name "musica intima" reflects the number of members, and the lower case spelling denotes the lack of hierarchy within the ensemble. It was formally established in 1992 and the same year won two awards in the CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs. Originally an eight-member ensemble, it grew to 12 members in 1994 and became a professional ensemble in 1999. Since that time, musica intima has become one of the most respected chamber choirs in Canada and one that John Fraser in the National Post (16 Nov 2001) described as "the most exiting small choir in the land." Members come from all parts of Canada, and many have careers as teachers, soloists, composers, and arrangers.

Working Method

The choir's approach is truly collaborative, its members sharing administrative duties and decisions regarding the selection and interpretation of repertoire. As a self-directed ensemble, the element of body language during rehearsals and performances is key in addressing technical issues such as tempo, dynamics, entrances and cut-offs. The choir often performs in circular formations and is known for incorporating choreography into its performances.


musica intima performs a diversity of repertoire, ranging from early music to contemporary compositions, with a particular emphasis on music by Canadian composers. These have included Stephen Chatman, Craig Galbraith, Rupert Lang, Imant Raminsh, R. Murray Schafer, Bruce Sled, and Claude Vivier. The choir has also commissioned many works from Canadian composers, including Peter Hannan, Jeffrey Ryan, Jordan Nobles, and Jocelyn Morlock, whose piece Exaudi was recorded on the choir's disc Into Light (2010). Many of musica intima's traditional arrangements have been composed by choir members, including Jonathan Quick's popular arrangement of the Scottish folksong Loch Lomond.

Concerts, Tours, Recordings

Over the course of the performance season (held between September and May), musica intima presents an extensive concert series in Vancouver. These have included choral evensong services at St. Philip's Church in Vancouver, in addition to regular concerts held at such venues as the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts (including a performance for the Vancouver Cultural Olympiad in 2010) and Christ Church Cathedral. In addition to performing on its own, musica intima has frequently joined forces with other ensembles and artists, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; conductor Hervé Niquet, in the premiere of newly discovered works by French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier; and jazz pianist/composer Uri Caine, in a concert of innovative arrangements of Bach's Goldberg Variations in 2004. Recording projects have involved such diverse artists as composer Owen Underhill, on the CD Celestial Machine (2000), and rock musician Matthew Good, on his album Avalanche (2003).

Since 2006, the choir has acted as a Canadian musical ambassador through extensive touring, travelling to Ontario, Quebec, the Yukon, the Maritime provinces, the United States, and Europe. In 2006 the choir took part in the Polyfollia Festival in France to considerable acclaim. Featuring works by North American composers only, that program became the inspiration for musica intima's disc Into Light. Equally successful was its appearance in Ireland's Cork International Choral Festival in May 2008. Writing in the Irish Examiner, Declan Townsend noted: "The stars of Thursday night's gala concert were musica intima from Canada, whose uninhibited natural sound, superb choral discipline and extraordinarily varied programme was a joy to hear." In July 2008, the choir travelled to Copenhagen for a number of performances at the World Symposium on Choral Music, the only Canadian choir to do so.


musica intima won top honours in the CBC National Radio Competition for Amateur Choirs throughout the 1990s, including first place in the contemporary music category in 1996. It has been nominated for two Juno awards, the first for its self-titled CD in 1999 and the second for Into Light in 2010. That year, Into Light also won classical recording of the year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.

Selected Discography

musica intima. 1998. SRI MI001

Clear. 1999. Atma Classique ACD22227

Invocation. 2002. Atma Classique ACD22284

Nativité. 2002. CBC Musica Viva MVCD1154

Veljo Tormis: Forgotten Peoples. 2006. Atma Classique ACD22354

O Nata Lux. 2008. Atma Classique ACD22577

Into Light. 2010. Atma Classique ACD 22613

Further Reading