Quintessence: the fifth ancient
element after earth, water, air and fire,
composing the stars and heavens; the purest, most concentrated essence.
The Quintessential Vocal Ensemble (QVE) has become recognized as one of Canada's most accomplished amateur choirs, bringing together more than 40 singers from the thriving musical community of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Founded in 1993, its members encompass a range of experienced singers, instrumentalists, music teachers, students, and professionals of diverse backgrounds, with a love for eclectic and engaging repertoire and an exceptional standard of performance. The choir is known especially for its a cappella repertoire of many styles and periods (works by contemporary composers, Renaissance, Romantic, folk/traditional, spirituals, pop/jazz). In recent years, QVE has also taken on major classical works and collaborated in large-scale productions for symphony and stage.
The choir has amassed 19 awards to date in numerous national and world competitions. QVE was the first Canadian choir to win the mixed choir category of the historic Llangollen International Eisteddfod in Wales; the first Canadian choir to compete at the renowned Florilège Vocal de Tours in France, where it captured the Renaissance category and Prix du Ministère de la Culture; and was awarded 2nd Prize at the Cork International Choral Festival in Ireland as one of ten world choirs invited to compete. At home, in the National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs, QVE is a three-time recipient of 1st Prize for mixed-voice adult choirs, having taken the category in every appearance since 2004.
QVE's performances have won accolades at Podium, the national convention of the Association of Canadian Choral Communities; as headline artist in MusicFest Canada's choral showcase; and at Festival 500 Sharing the Voices, Newfoundland and Labrador's own acclaimed international choral exhibition, including a performance for Queen Elizabeth II at the inaugural opening ceremonies. QVE's appearances in the national media have included its own Christmas special on CBC television, Newfoundland and Labrador's 50th Anniversary of Confederation celebrations, and the Canada Winter Games. In May 2014, QVE received a standing ovation after its solo debut on the main stage of Carnegie Hall in New York, when it premiered Leonard Enns' "As On Wings", commissioned by QVE to commemorate the response of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in aid of the thousands of trans-Atlantic airline travellers diverted to the province following the attacks of 9/11.
The choir has recorded three CDs: Ave Maris Stella, a treasury of motets and spirituals from the past 150 years, released in 2001 and nominated for Classical Recording of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards; A Quintessential Christmas, released in 2003; and most recently, and if you close your eyes, in 2006.
Building on its artistic mandate to promote choral education, in 2014 QVE expanded with a new mixed-voice youth choir for ages 15 to 23, and launched an artistic collaboration with the newly-formed Atlantic Vocal Ensembles for children and youth. QVE's educational outreach also includes initiatives such as school workshops, and the annual QVE Bellamy-Sesk Memorial Bursary. The choir is committed to promoting the province's culture and choral singing through recurring performances in smaller communities around the province, as well as touring abroad, and commissioning of new work by Newfoundland and Labrador composers.
Photo credit: Ruth Skinner