Christine Duncan's Element Choir will be back in Ottawa for the second year in a row this summer – and local singers have a chance to participate! No previous choir experience is necessary.

You can join Christine Duncan's Element Choir at the 2013 Chamberfest. The choir is seen here in their outdoor concert at the 2012 festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2012
You can join Christine Duncan's Element Choir at the 2013 Chamberfest. The choir is seen here in their outdoor concert at the 2012 festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2012
The Element Choir is an mass choir of male and female voices who sing mostly wordlessly. Much of its music is improvised. Duncan conducts the choir using a system of hand signals which she has adapted from and built on from other choirs, and singers learn those hand signals in the rehearsals. While there's a small core group of singers, most of its members are recruited anew for each different city. has heard the Element Choir perform in a church at the Guelph Jazz Festival [2011], outside under the Sappers Bridge in downtown Ottawa, and in the National Gallery of Canada as part of Scott Thomson's Chamber Elements composition [both 2012]. In each case the result was fascinating and often magical - and unique.

The Choir will perform twice in Ottawa in 2013:

  • Thursday, August 1 at noon at Ottawa City Hall as part of Arcade Air, a new site-specific composition by Scott Thomson for Chamberfest. This is a free concert.
  • Friday, August 2 at noon in Dominion Chalmers United Church. This is a ticketed concert.

Singers must also commit to attend two rehearsals, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, July 30 and 31.

The full details from Christine Duncan:

Toronto vocalist Christine Duncan is co-leader of the Element Choir Project, an improvising choir that she trains in her well-honed conducting system. Duncan designed her system to develop a context for dynamic group expression that is both creative and joyful. Christine is looking for singers — whether professional or enthusiastically amateur, and in any style — to participate as choir members during Chamberfest. The Element Choir Project, following Christine's cues, will create a new music that is at once improvised and carefully structured.

On 1 August, at noon, the Ottawa Element Choir Project will perform as part of Scott Thomson's new site-specific composition, Arcade Air, for Chamberfest in City Hall. Arcade Air will also feature a brass sextet and two creative dancers. This piece will be related to (but different from) Chamber Elements, Scott's memorable site-specific piece for the National Gallery of Canada, which featured a Christine Duncan-led choir during its performances last year.

On 2 August, at noon, the choir will perform at Dominion Chalmers United Church. During this concert, the choir will collaborate with exceptional instrumentalists assembled by Christine and the other co-leader of the project, Jean Martin (drums): Jim Lewis (trumpet), and Veryan Weston (church organ, from England), who will be improvising along with the choir.

To be part of this project, singers should be able to commit to the schedule below, and approach participation with a positive, supportive, collaborative, and creative attitude. Once again, especially in possession of such an attitude, singers of any skill level and experience are invited to apply to participate. We look forward to making music with you.

Schedule — singers must commit to all aspects to participate:

  • Tuesday, 30 July, 7-10pm (venue tba) — first choir workshop/rehearsal with Christine Duncan
  • Wednesday, 31 July, 7-10pm (venue tba) — second choir workshop/rehearsal with Christine Duncan
  • Thursday, 1 August, 11am-1pm –– performance of Arcade Air by Scott Thomson, Ottawa City Hall (show starts at noon)
  • Friday, 2 August, 10am-1:30pm –– Element Choir Project performance (with Jean Martin, Jim Lewis, and Veryan Weston), Dominion Chalmers United Church (show starts at noon) 


Choir members will receive a Chamberfest Artist Pass, good for admission to all events during the Festival except Gala shows (seating not guaranteed for any show), and a Chamberfest T-shirt.

To Apply to Participate:

Please contact Christine Duncan in an e-mail message with the subject line "Ottawa Chamberfest Choir": This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information about Ottawa Chamberfest:

For more information about the lead artists: