Mom and Dad did really well. It's great to see them going out there, doing something they enjoy and being happy.
The choir consists of 65 members who get together to practice a few evenings a week, plus vocal lessons on their own time.
The Vocal/Artistic Director is Vivian Chao:
曹繼怡 Ms. Vivian Chao Vocal & Artistic Director
Born in Tianjin, Vivian started her vocal training at the age of fifteen with Professor Fuzeng Wang for several years at the Central Music Academy. Later, Vivian was recruited by the Beijing Central Folk Song and Dance Troupe and became its lead vocalist. With the BCFSDT, she performed throughout China, crisscrossing the great Yangtze River many times over. Vivian's singing of the theme song from the movie production "Coconut Field in Wrath" was such a big hit that she attracted nationwide attention and praise.
After moving to Hong Kong in 1975, Vivian performed with many music groups including the Hong Kong Chorus, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Lam Hak Hon Symphony Orchestra, Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra, Taiwan Chinese Orchestra, Kaohsiung Chinese Orchestra, Taipei Municipal Symphony Orchestra and the Taiwan Provincial Symphony Orchestra. As the prima donna in the Chinese operas "Wang Fu Yun" and "Romance of the West Chamber", Vivian has gained admirable fame. During this period, she hosted a very popular daily radio programme with Radio Television Hong Kong introducing one famous Chinese folk song a day. In 1986, she was awarded the prestigious Golden Caldron Award when her personal special edition solo record "Across the Great River" was produced and released in Taiwan.
With her broad exposure of both Western and Chinese musical pieces, Vivian adopted the merits of both and created a unique performing style of her own — East meets West, the best of both worlds, so to speak. Since moving to Vancouver in 1993, apart from occasional appearances in local concerts, Vivian enthusiastically devotes her time and energy teaching vocal techniques to the Grand Ensemble members.
Auntie Vivian's voice is a world class opera voice. It really is. I realized last night while listening to one of her solos that she sounds A LOT, A LOT like Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (whose voice I very much adore as well), except Auntie Vivian has less of that "yowl" at the back of her throat that's most pronounced on the "ee" sound and "ow" diphthong. Listen to Te Kanawa do Pö Atarau (Now Is the Hour) and you'll hear what I'm talking about. Especially "E moea iho nei", "Koe ki pämamao" and "Ki i te tau".
I don't think the "yowl" is considered a "good" or "bad" quality, per se. It's just one of those things that distinguishes one diva's voice from another... aw, what the hell, I think Auntie Vivian's voice sounds nicer. There, I said it. =) Te Kanawa's voice is slightly thicker and heavier. Some would say that's a good thing, that it lends substance, strength and character to the aria. On the other hand, if I were looking for gossamer-light and crisp, I'd choose Auntie Vivian's voice.
We didn't ask her to sing at my wedding. It would have been the highlight of my life to have a soprano like her doing something at my wedding. But Mom and Dad didn't want to make her work on an occasion where she should have been able to sit back and just be there.