Beautiful Renaissance-era ballads featured at Lyric Singers concert this Saturday

Early music fans — no, scratch that — all music fans have a great chance to hear some beautiful ballads this weekend in New Westminster. Nancy Rahn, music director of the Lyric Singers, invites those with adventurous ears to join her all-female chamber choir for Madrigalia, a night of Italian, French and English ballads in the intimate confines of the Royal City’s Holy Trinity Church. Besides the accomplished vocals of the Lyric Singers, listeners will be treated to some rare musical accompaniment.

“We’ve got a recorder consort playing replicas of Renaissance recorders,” says Rahn, whose enthusiasm for the “These are made of wood, and have wonderful, rich sound – it’s not loud, but it’s incredibly rich. They are of varying sizes, the longest is 8 feet long. And the musicians joining us are extremely talented. It’s quite inspiring to hear them play, especially on these period instruments.”

Doubling the unique program are the sounds produced by female voices singing madrigals. “They weren’t written for women, really,” admits Rahn. “We’ve got some wonderful arrangements, and listening to the pieces develop, I’m thinking, wow, we’ve got something special here.”

So what is a madrigal? I’m glad you asked. Madrigal is a form of romantic balladry that saw increasing popularity in Europe through the middle ages. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, England experienced greater freedoms for the average person, allowing for populist entertainment to emerge. Prior to this, nearly all music performed by choirs was sacred in nature – madrigals explored themes of everyday work, play, love and life. Most commonly, they mined the excitement and depth of young love.

In fact, the earliest madrigals (usually agreed to have appeared in Italy in the 1300s) were love poems composed by young lovers as they wooed the ladies of the land. (Hey, it’s Italy – what else would they be singing, right?) The evolution of the form intertwined harmonies and independent melodies over several movements to complicate the storylines and heighten aural appeal.

Enter the French, who transformed these chaptered pieces into shorter pieces called chansons, what we would translate as songs. In other words, madrigals were the hit radio of the 17th century. If Lady Gaga had lived in 1682, she might have written a madrigal about Romeo and Juliet. (Or, more likely, about one of the supporting characters, Benvolio or Mercutio – but I digress, and you get the idea.)

“It’s fun to do music from this period,” says Rahn, who insists the themes of heartache and loss are not as heavy as you might think. “The melodies are lovely, and the composers had a lot of fun writing these. We’re talking about young love here, much like some of the music we hear on popular radio today. It’s a joyful concert to be a part of.”

The Lyric Singers present Madrigalia at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Westminster on Saturday, May 12. For more information, call 604-340-4353 or visit

Olympic curler seeks sixth Westcoast Curling Classic title at Royal City Curling Club

Curler Kevin Martin and team at the Olympics. Photo courtesy
Curler Kevin Martin and team at the Olympics. Photo courtesy

This is a guest post by Jason Kurylo. While Jason currently lives in Burnaby (shhhhh!) his New Westminster roots run deep. Jason co-hosts a hockey podcast which you can find on his website Pucked In The Head.

Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself saying “Hey, wasn’t that… you know, that guy?” over the next few days. You probably have seen that guy on TV, even if you’ve just grazed past TSN on a Sunday afternoon. That guy, in fact, just might have Olympic gold in his back pocket.

Kevin Martin and his foursome are no stranger to the Royal City – they’ll be in town for Thanksgiving to take part in the 12th annual Westcoast Curling Classic to be held at the Royal City Curling Club from October 6 – 10.

Martin is one of the world’s most recognizable faces of men’s curling. Since winning back-to-back World Junior Curling Championships in 1998 and 1999, the Edmonton product has been a fixture on the Canadian and international curling circuits. His teams have represented Canada at two Olympic games, first taking silver in Salt Lake City in 2002 and then gold at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Martin has also been a part of 14 Grand Slam titles on the World Curling Tour – in fact, he was the first skip to complete a career Grand Slam by winning each of the tour’s four major championships by the end of the 2004-05 season. He has gone on to win the National, the Canadian Open and the Players’ Championship an additional three times since that feat.

Also impressive has been his dominance at the Westcoast Classic. Since its inception in 2002, Martin’s rinks have neatly taken home half of the first place purses – for this, the twelfth run of the WCC, he looks for his sixth title. He’ll have to wade through 23 other teams, including 2006 Olympic silver medalist Marku Uusipaavalniemi of Finland. Also on the roster are teams from BC, across Canada, the United States, Russia, Japan and Chinese Taipei. New Westminster rinks include those skipped by 2000 World Champions Bryan Miki and Brent Pierce (who each now skip their own foursomes) and former BC Junior Men’s Champs Andrew Bilesky and Jay Wakefield (@curlerjayw on Twitter, but watch out – he drops the four-letter words in just about every tweet). Up for grabs is a cash purse of $64,000.

Martin and Uusipaavalniemi will play a skins game on Wednesday, October 6 at 7:30 pm. The tournament itself begins on Friday, October 8, with draws beginning at 11 am and 2:15, 6 and 9 pm. There are multiple draws on Saturday and Sunday, with the quarter-finals, semifinals and finals to go on Thanksgiving Monday. Day passes to watch the tournament are $10, or get a tournament pass for all four days of play for $30.