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Tony Araujo Choral Conductor

Tony Araujo, Choral Conductor

An interview article by Rosemary Phillips, 2003

Tony Araujo
UPDATE: At the time of this interview, in 2003, Tony Araujo was taking on the role of artistic director of the British Columbia Boys Choir, a role which he has, after 14 years, passed on to Edette Gagne. He was honoured at the 50th Anniversary Christmas Concert of the Boys Choir. In addition, Tony has completed his doctorate, and has toured extensively with all his choirs. But let this article speak to you of this man's amazing talents and insights... for to talk with Tony Araujo is to converse with a man who truly speaks from his heart. He brings compassion, caring, wisdom and a passionate vision.

A holistic approach to choral music

"To me it's important that the music resonates with the individual lived experiences of members of the choir," explained Tony Araujo. “When they bring (those experiences) to the performance it’s more connected, holistic.”

Tony conducts from a feeling space, a place of pure thought. “There’s something numinous about conducting. When trying to reach the different frequencies in music, as a conductor, you can be in that frequency, the space between space, neither here nor there. If you can get the singers in that space then you are in the same zone, you are IN the music. I want all my singers to become the music.”

When the singers become the music, the audience feels it. “For me (the joy) is the moment when people who don’t know the choir are moved to tears - that the audience feels really connected.”

Choral music has deep meaning for Tony. “I feel like I’m being called to do this. Everything happens for a reason and there’s a timely contribution to be made.”

To date he has made incredible contributions as the choral director of international award winning choirs at St. Patrick Regional Secondary School and as the artistic director of Corpus Christi College Chamber Choir. He has received the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and his work has been captured in a documentary film entitled “Spirit Alive: The Tony Araujo Story”.

At the time of this interview he had just returned from a tour through Canterbury, London, and Paris with one of the school choirs, and after a week of rest he is now preparing for his full season ahead. And what are his visions for the BC Boys Choir?

Tony Araujo’s vision for the BC Boys Choir - “When a wheel is so good it doesn’t need re-inventing,” he stated. “Gerry (Gerald Van Wyck) and Margot (Holmes) have really helped get the choir to where it is. My vision is to maintain what has already been done and to keep some of the traditions, such as singing ‘May God be with you ‘til we meet again’ at the end of a performance. There are silent traditions, things that I have noticed. I imagine there will be new traditions. I want a sense of continuity while introducing new things.”

One of those new things is to create opportunities to connect with more groups and to perform at festivals all over the world, to introduce the BC Boys Choir to the international concert stage level.

“I want them to work with some of the finest choral educators in North America like Anton Armstrong, Weston Noble and Dr. Doreen Rao. I want them to hear more choirs – to challenge them. I want to continue to do a variety of music from around the world and to have new pieces commissioned for the choir.

“Right now though I think I’ll just settle in for a year and see how things go. More ideas will emerge. I’m very grateful to the organization and blessed that the boys have received me so well. When someone new comes in after 13 years it can be very difficult. Gerry (conductor from 1988-2003) integrated me from the start when I joined as associated conductor in 2001, and he allowed me to participate fully from the first day I got there. I am very grateful to Gerry for how he has been and continues to be so supportive.”

Spirit Alive - Choral music from a depth perspective - And while Tony settles in with the BC Boys Choir, he will still be working with St. Patrick’s choirs, and taking his monthly trips to the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara where he continues his doctorate studies and research on “Spirit Alive: The Choral Music Experience from a Depth Perspective”.

While reading the introduction to his thesis, and another paper on his understanding of music as healer, this writer was moved by Tony’s articulation, his energy, and his ability to integrate academia with writing from feeling that includes his own personal healing experience. How does a writer, bound by limitations of prose, describe a concept that can be so illusive and not main stream?

“I’m studying everything from alchemy to dreamwork. I think that choral music has a transformative capacity to facilitate the individuation process with every singer. Part of my research is based on the art of teaching to the soul. Admittedly it’s one of those things you can’t articulate. It’s called Depth Psychology - archetypal psychology - Jungian.

Choral music is about listening - to each other - "It not only changes the singer but the entire audience. It's really about love."

“This is what’s driving my research. How can we get this into mainstream education – to look at the experience of the individual, rather than the top-down method of teaching? Choral conductors can be healers – because we are a coach of a large group of people. Someone called me a Spirit Maker. It’s not intentional. But I can see how that can be seen in that way. It comes from a place of humility. When I’m up there conducting I’m washing (the choir’s) feet – all I ask is that they wash the feet of the audience. It’s humility. It’s an inclusive process. It’s not about the ego of the art, it’s the spirit of the art. It’s about creating a container where you can really build community.”

Tony loves what he does. To him work is play. It gives him energy. But there is another side to the man. “I love going out and hanging out with friends. I love to dance. I did a bar tending course once so I love making martinis. I like to entertain.”

But with his choirs Tony’s work goes beyond entertaining, it is a transformational experience reaching from the individual members of the choir and connecting with the audience at a deep rooted and soul touching level.

NOTE: There are many more articles on this site about great musicians and artists - see Index of Articles.

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