FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: July 22, 2021
CALGARY MEN’S CHORUS ANNOUNCES YOHEI SAKAI AS NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
[CALGARY, AB] – The Calgary Men’s Chorus is thrilled to announce that Yohei Sakai will be the next Artistic Director, effective July 2021. Sakai succeeds Malcolm Edwards, who retired from the Chorus in June.
Yohei Sakai, who is the Founder and outgoing Artistic Director of the St. John’s Gay Men’s Chorus, is a classically trained singer and choral conductor originally from Japan.
Sakai is an energetic director with a passion for queer community arts, learning new languages, and experiencing new cultures. After studying Spanish in Japan, he moved to Mexico where began formal musical education at the National School of Music (currently Faculty of Music), National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 2010. During his time in Mexico, he actively performed and organized recitals for festivals and events, especially collaborating with the student group "Amor es Amor" to support the queer community.
“I also have a deep love for learning different languages and cultures. Latin music particularly became dear to my heart after spending several years in Mexico. I embrace Japanese and Latin culture as part of me, yet I keep discovering myself every day in Canada,” said Sakai.
Sakai moved to Canada in 2013 to pursue further education and completed a Bachelor of Music in voice in 2017 and Master of Music in choral conducting in 2019 at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Sakai is also active as a language teacher and translator. He has taught introductory Spanish at MUN from 2019 to 2021 and has a decade of experience as a Japanese instructor.
Sakai founded the St. John's Gay Men's Chorus in April 2017, which is now the oldest gay men's chorus in Atlantic Canada. The Board of the Calgary Men’s Chorus first became aware of Sakai and was impressed when he brought his young chorus to Calgary for the 2018 Unison Festival. The Unison Festival is Canada’s quadrennial LGBTQ2S+ choral festival which the choir co-hosted in 2018 and has participated in since 1998.
“My connection with the Calgary Men's Chorus goes back to the Unison Festival in 2018, where I had the pleasure to see their performance and meet the members in the beautiful city of Calgary. Now, coming back to Calgary as the new director of CMC is sheer excitement,” said Sakai.
Since then, Sakai has worked hard to elevate the St. John’s Men’s Chorus and has become a leader within Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ choral network. Sakai’s energy and experience building the St. John’s Men’s Chorus will be tested as the chorus rebuilds after the pandemic.
Restrictions on singing have been among the strongest of any activity, and that has been challenging for the choir. The Calgary Men’s Chorus celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019 and had big plans for a tour of the United Kingdom and Southern Alberta in 2020 that were foiled by the pandemic. The choir has stayed active during the pandemic by producing “Virtual Choir” videos with support from The Calgary Chinook Fund.
“We have tried to stay active and keep our members engaged during the pandemic but Zoom and YouTube don’t come close to matching the community experience of singing together,” said Shawn Loo, President of the Calgary Men’s Chorus. “We are very excited at the prospects of rehearsing together again soon, and we look forward to working with Yohei as he leads our choir forward.”
“I cannot wait to welcome all the returning and new members to the choir and making great music and community. We have been through a lot of uncertainty and hardships in recent years. It is time for us to rise up and sing again!” said Sakai.
Sakai will be moving to Calgary in late August with the expectation that he will be leading rehearsals starting on September 7th in preparation for a concert in December and another in June. Sakai’s first season with the Calgary Men’s Chorus will culminate with a return to Atlantic Canada when the choir travels to Halifax, NS to participate in the 2022 Unison Festival from June 30 to July 3.
The inclusive, non-auditioned choir accepts new members during the months of September and January and invites anyone with a tenor/bass vocal range and an interest in music to check out the choir and the new Artistic Director.