5 Questions with Musician Kristel Peters: “Sing with us!”

Kristel Peters is an avid musician with a passion for choral music. Her extensive musical background includes participating in the SEMF Festival, The Winnipeg Mennonite Children’s Choir, the Winnipeg Music Festival, the University of Manitoba Singers, Prairie Voices, Antiphony, the Manitoba Youth Choir, and the Winnipeg Singers. Kristel’s penchant for vocal jazz found expression with Apogee, a self-directed vocal jazz ensemble. In 2001 she joined Prairie Voices, as Dr. Elroy Friesen’s conducting assistant and assumed the role of Artistic Director in 2002 for six successful seasons. Ms. Peters is currently the Choral Director at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School. She delights in contributing to Manitoba’s rich choral traditions, working with students to create community through music!

1. You’ve been in, and have directed, many mass choirs. Can you tell us about the experience, what it’s like, what it feels like, and what happens at these events? (Are all mass choir events the same?)

A Mass choir event can be EPIC. The communities coming together for one goal and one purpose. Singing releases a chemical in your brain and connects you to each other. The surge of sound and the rush of feelings. Putting together a show and working hard as a team creates this energy and there is nothing like it. Not all events are the same. It also hinges on the planning committee, venue, and hugely on the directors for creating that moment and community bonding time. They also have the task of choosing the repertoire and finding songs with many thoughts in mind… like who is the audience, what would they like to hear, what do I want to conduct, what do I want the singer to experience and sing and feel. Will we be able to tell the stories of the music, of the past, of the future. So many things to consider.

2. Would you want to talk a bit about how the pandemic impacted the choral world, and what it means to get together to sing for crowds in person once again?

The pandemic was a very trying time for the arts world and choir was impacted greatly. We were told over and over how dangerous it was to sing together. It silenced so many folks. It was heartbreaking to see my students suffer. Mentally it was draining. There is starting to be a resurgence in attendance and gatherings for the arts. I am so excited to have our concerts again in our communities. The joy on the faces of my choristers experiencing a concert for the first time and the thrill and excitement of a job well done and the accolades from friends, family, and the community. It is an event that was truly missed during the pandemic.

3. You’re going to be directing one of the choirs that will be joining two others for a giant mass choir at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg — an incredible experience for all involved! Can you talk a little bit about what this event is for?

We are so excited to be hosting a HUGE Sängerfest in Winnipeg. 2023 marks the centenary of the beginning of the Russlander migration in the 1920’s. Throughout the month of July there will be a commemorative train tour that stops across the country. At every stop there will be celebrations and commemorations planned. This includes Quebec City, Montreal, Kitchener-Waterloo, Winnipeg, Rosthern, Didsbury and Abbotsford. One of the special events in Manitoba will be Singing our Journey: Sängerfest 2023.

This event will have a Treble Choir directed by Millie Hildebrand (ages 10-14), a Youth Choir directed by myself and Vic Pankratz (ages 14-25), and an Adult Choir directed by Henry Engbrecht (ages 18+). Folks can join us and sing in these groups. You can sing in the youth choir AND the adult choir. Those rehearsals will be seperate. However, they will join together for a few songs. The youth choir and treble choir will rehearse at the same time so if you have children in both groups their rehearsals are at the same time and in the same location. There will be guest soloists and emcees and some singing with the audience as well. It will be a program you don’t want to miss.

4. I imagine that by June we’ll be hearing tremendous buzz about this event. This is something we will all want to be a part of! But NOW is the time we need to join, right? Who exactly are you looking for/hoping for, to join this huge choir?

Everyone! Come one and all to sing with us. We are really hoping to have HUGE choirs that will come together for this momentous celebration. If you love singing then this is the place for you! All of you! Registration is open already. Cost is only $20 for adult choir, $10 for youth and free for the treble choir. That will help with costs of music purchase etc. Very minimal. (To sign up now, click here!) The repertoire is chosen and ready to go. We have two brand new world premiers that will take place at this event by Leonard Enns and Michael Janzen. A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to really get this event rolling.

5. You grew up attending a Mennonite church, right? What were some of your favourite hymns to sing? Or, which ones allowed your vocal register to really shine? Or, when did you realize you were meant to sing sing sing???

I grew up attending the Steinbach Mennonite church. My favourite hymns are #606 (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow). It is no longer number 606 but in my mind will always be. I always loved singing “Der Friedensfurst” at our Christmas events. Signing German hymns with my Grandma Peters will always be a fond memory for me (Stille Nacht and Kling Glocken). I can still sing them all from memory! And lastly at Easter “Up from the Grave he Arose”! Then my last one would be “It is well with my soul”. This is a great question. So hard to choose just one. I love to sing them all. Standing beside my family and singing hymns is where I learned the love of community and choir! 😉