CRMSS Pacific 2024

CRMSS Pacific 2024: How to apply


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CRMSS Pacific 2024 Theme

La Bella Italia: Music from the birthplace of the Renaissance

During the Renaissance, Italy was in many ways the centre of the entire European cultural world. In places like Venice, Florence, and Rome, thinkers and artists met and experimented throughout the period, supported by a powerful and wealthy aristocracy. Da vinci, Machiavelli, Gallileo. The power of the Catholic church, based at the Vatican and deeply integrated with and representative of broader Italian culture, was heavily engaged in fighting new Protestant threats from abroad, ushering in the modern world in response to the printing press (and sometimes dragging its feet), and encountering Humanism and other ideas that would eventually lead to the Enlightenment. For 150 years, many of the biggest and most profound ideas shaping the age were articulated in Italian. Historians call the Renaissance the 'Early Modern' period; the modern world as we know it was born in the 16th century, in the Italian sunshine.

Musically, Italian leadership was clear. Music printing itself came of age economically in Venice during the Renaissance and the Italian madrigal became the preeminent secular genre throughout the continent. It's important to remember that opera itself, which would become the dominant musical paradigm in the Baroque and beyond, had its birth in Florence during the Renaissance. The famously international nature of the careers of many "continent-trotting" musicians almost always involved significant time spent in Italy. While Protestant nations to the north experimented with simpler musical styles, the Italians doubled down on the sophistication and glory of their opulent cultural birthright!

Our focus on Italy at CRMSS Pacific 2024 will allow us to approach the works of so many different composers. Josquin des Prez, Tomas Luis de Victoria, and Orlande de Lassus were heavily involved in Italian music making, and we will of course revel in the glories of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Claudio Monteverdi, Luca Marenzio, and so many more. What a musical feast!

Come and join us as we sip espresso, wear impossibly cool sunglasses, and get very excited about soccer. After an amazing week of singing extraordinary music together, we'll all make a stylish getaway on our Vespas, driving off into the Tuscan sunset as the bells of the Duomo chime in the distance...

What types of singing will happen at CRMSS Pacific 2024?

Choral singing

A major focus of any CRMSS course is singing together as one large choir, preparing sacred a capella music from the Renaissance for our various public performances.

We will also divide the participants into two smaller chamber groups which work separately, and look at different repertoire from what is covered in the tutti group.

Consort singing: one and two per part vocal chamber music

Any serious amount of time spent getting to know the music of the Renaissance must include small-ensemble singing. The tutors will chose groups and assign them repertoire before the week begins, sending out scores and reference recordings so participants can prepare in advance and come with one or two pieces already learned.

It is in these small group settings that we can best explore secular repertoire from the Renaissance. We believe it is of particular importance that the secular music of this period be covered, as it provides a more vivid picture of the sorts of musical lives these musicians actually lived, be they composers or singers or both.

There will be opportunities to work on small ensemble music that participants bring themselves.

The pre-formed small groups will all be at least two-singers-per-part. Everyone will be allocated into one of these small groups, and perhaps more than one if numbers allow. There may also be time set aside for even smaller, one-per-part consorts to form and experiment with other repertoire, both on an ad hoc basis and under the direction of a member of staff.

Solo singing

While the majority of our time is spent preparing ensemble music in choral and small group contexts, good solo vocal technique is of course essential for good singing. This applies to music written in any style and from any time period.

Solo singing and good vocal technique are core parts of any CRMSS course and we will be offering individual vocal technique sessions to all participants.

We are very lucky have Lucas Harris, one of Canada's most prestigious lutenists, with us for the week. Lucas will be working with some lutenists as part of CRMSS Pacific 2024 Lute Day, but he will also be available to work with solo singers accompanying them on the lute.

Participants are enthusiastically encouraged to bring their own solo repertoire, and we suggest works written before 16.

Tutor Team

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The tutor team for CRMSS Pacific 2024 will be:

Julian Gregory of The King's SingersGreg SkidmoreSharang SharmaChristina HuttenSarah Poon, and Lucas Harris.

Click on each name to be taken to the "Tutors" page on our website where you can read more about each person.


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The details of the performances we will give as part of CRMSS Pacific 2024 are still being finalised. Below are descriptions of the plans we have made so far, as well as information about performances that took place at CRMSS Pacific 2023 and CRMSS Ontario 2023 - just to give you an idea of what to expect this year. As the details of CRMSS Pacific 2024 firm up, we will post more information here.

Choral Evensong at St. James' Anglican Church, Vancouver

We will prepare Choral Evensong in the English cathedral style and travel to St. James' on Friday, August 9th to sing at this service. This beautiful service, during which the choir provides the lion's share of the liturgical material, consists of a Magnificat and Nunc dimittis setting, an Anthem, some choral Responses, and a Psalm. While the service of Evensong was an English creation in the 16th-century, modern cathedral practice allows for a range of repertoire and we will find many appropriate pieces from within our Italy repertoire theme area. Precise timings are still to be confirmed. Please check back here for more information.

Internal 'sharing' concert for CRMSS participants

Everyone who participates in CRMSS Pacific 2024 will have a chance to perform any of the music they work on over the course of the week, be it in their pre-formed smaller groups or in groups they form themselves or the solo repertoire they work on or music they bring themselves... or anything else! This event will take place on Saturday, August 10th and will not be open to the public.

Mass at St Helen's Parish

On the final day of our weekend together last year, the participants of CRMSS Pacific 2023 provided the music at High Mass at St. Helen's Parish. This was the main public performance associated with the course and was our chance to share with our hosts what we had accomplished over the course of the weekend last year.

At CRMSS Pacific 2024, we plan on repeating this, and the Sunday morning Mass on Sunday, August 11th will be one of our main public events.

Final course concert

The culmination of any CRMSS week is the final public concert given by the participants. It is during this concert that we showcase all the different sorts of music that have gone on over the course of the week, including all of our different ensembles: tutti, chamber choirs, small groups, and soloists. At CRMSS Pacific 2024, this concert will take place on Sunday, August 11th and will be at St Helen's Parish in Burnaby Heights.

Daily evening church services

Throughout the week, at the end of each day, we will sing Compline at St. Helen's. Our Compline service is simple, sung in English or Latin, and is largely made up of plainsong, with a few simple motets for contrast. It is designed not as something pressured or necessarily to be worked towards, but rather as a way of bringing our day together to a peaceful close - precisely as the service was designed to do in its original monastic context. These services mainly serve as a way for us to come together as a course and to experience the daily rhythm of liturgical music making that formed the wider context for most of the music we will be studying.

Examples of performances at our most recent Ontario course

Below are descriptions of some of the performances that took place at CRMSS Ontario 2023.

Latin Choral Vespers at St Peter's Seminary

For a few years now, a special highlight of our Ontario course has been singing a Choral Vespers service at St Peter's Seminary. This service, conducted entirely in Latin and using the Tridentine Rite, involves a large amount of Gregorian plainsong interspersed with polyphonic motets and psalms.

Choral Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral

The participants and tutors of CRMSS Ontario 2023 travelled to St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown London Ontario to perform an English cathedral choir style Evensong service. We sang the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis from William Byrd'sGreat Service, one of the masterpieces of the English cathedral choir repertoire.

A Typical Day

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We are always in the process of tweaking the daily schedule to get things just right, and pacing our time together is very important. At CRMSS Pacific 2024 we will follow the basic outline below, but the daily schedule is very much subject to change. Special events happening throughout the week will mean any given day's schedule may deviate from this significantly.

Full course warmup
Full course choral rehearsal - 2.5 hours, including a 20 minute tea break
Small group work and/or solo sessions, including a 10 minute break
Lecture / Symposium / Round Table / Masterclass, including a 10 minute break
Continued small group work, ad hoc, or solo sessions, including a 10 minute break
Full course choral rehearsal - 1 hour, including a 10 minute break
Full course choral rehearsal - 1 hour, including a 10 minute break
Compline rehearsal (approx. 45 min)
Compline (approx. 30-45 min)
Pub / Home / Sleep / Late night singing!

Lectures, Symposia, and Round Table discussions

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Our programme of talks and lectures at CRMSS Pacific 2024 isn't yet finalised. Below is what we are currently planning.

  • Greg Skidmore led a round-table discussion entitled "Renaissance Music Performance in Canada: Past, Present, and Future". On the panel were David Skulski, Christina Hutten, Gerald King, Sharang Sharma, and Jonathan Stuchbery. The discussion involved descriptions of early experiments at the beginning of the Early Music movement, topics related to the current state of post-secondary education in Renaissance music, how to programme Renaissance music for a modern audiences, and much more.
  • Our very special guest, Dr. Susan Lewis, Vice-Provost (Academic Programs) of Western University and Professor of Musicology in the Department of Research and Composition at the Don Wright Faculty of Music gave a talk on her research interests: Renaissance Garden Culture and the Madrigal in England
  • Dr. Kate Helsen, our Academic Lead at CRMSS Ontario 2023, gave a talk entitled William Byrd: Wanted dead, alive, or Catholic
  • Our CRMSS 2022 Guest Artist, Robert Hollingworth, gave a talk entitled Method to the Madness in which he outlined the history of his group I Fagiolini, as well as its performance philosophy.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen secured special access for us to rarely viewed manuscripts and prints from the Renaissance held in the archives of Western University.
  • Dr. Aaron James gave a talk about how musicians in the time of Josquin des Prez actually learned music as students, using a system known as the Guidonian Hand, and entitled A Helping Hand: Guido, Hexachords, Solmization, and Musicianship in the Renaissance.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen showed us how Josquin des Prez was actually a pretty slippery character to pin down - who was he, actually? How many 'Josquins' were there? Her talk was entitled Josquin: Choose your own adventure.
  • Dr. Patrick Murray took us through the process of preparing a piece of Renaissance polyphony for modern day performance in his talk entitled Anything but ‘Ordinary:’ Bringing a Renaissance mass to life in contemporary performance.
  • Sharang Sharma took us through an introduction to some practical methods we can use to help learn the required musical skills to sight-read Renaissance music and chant effectively.
  • Dr. Roseen Giles gave a paper entitled “‘Don't worry, this will sing itself', and other musical fictions" about the practice of musica ficta.
  • Andrew Pickett presented “‘Drop the beat’ - Introduction to the theory and practice of vocal ensemble intonation”.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen introduced us to some of her fascinating new research in “What's in a Riff - Chant DNA in modal polyphony”.
  • Greg Skidmore, Matt Long, and Emily Atkinson took part in a round table discussion led by Dr. Giles entitled “Being a Professional Singer in the UK”, taking questions on every aspect of their professional lives in the UK.
  • Lucas Harris gave a lecture entitled “Musica Transalpina: The madrigal in Italy & England, c1600”
  • Dr. Kate Helsen gave us a crash course in Renaissance musical notation with her workshop entitled “Partly Useful: Renaissance notation”
  • Dr. Troy Ducharme of the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University wrapped our heads around Gesualdo's wild sounds with “Beyond Rules: Counterpoint Technique, Musical Meaning, and Style in Selected Works of Gesualdo.”

Lute Day

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A mini-CRMSS course just for lutenists!

Following on from the success of our Lute Days at our Ontario courses, and the fantastic work of our lutenists last year in Vancouver, we are glad to expand this offering at CRMSS Pacific 2024. Lucas Harris, one of Canada's leading lutenists, will devise a day-long course for lutenists that will involve the following:

In previous years, Lucas has contacted potential participants individually and created a bespoke experience once he had an idea of who was coming. While the specifics of how Lute Day will work at CRMSS Pacific 2024 are still being finalised, we expect it to take a similar form.

If you are interested in taking part in Lute Day at CRMSS Pacific 2024, please get in touch with us.

CRMSS Pacific 2024 Keyboard Course

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New this year, CRMSS Pacific 2024 will include the opportunity for keyboard players to explore Renaissance instruments, historical playing styles, and music of the period with Christina Hutten of the University of British Columbia as instructor. Some of the events we are planning for participants in Keyboard Day include:

Additionally, advanced players of historical keyboard instruments may apply for more extended participation in CRMSS Pacific 2024, allowing for a deeper dive into Renaissance keyboard music and ensemble playing skills.

This course is still being devised by Christina and Greg and more information will be posted here in the coming months. If you are a keyboard player and are interested in taking part, please get in touch.

CRMSS Pacific 2024 String Course & "Viol Petting Zoo"

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Sarah Poon will lead a multi-day event for string players, concentrating on the viola da gamba. While the precise schedule is still being finalised, this will include solo tuition, working in an ensemble, and opportunities to collaborate with singers.

Further, as part of Sarah's broader involvement with CRMSS Pacific 2024, she will be providing anyone (regardless of whether they have any string playing experience) the chance to try out viol playing in a "Viol Petting Zoo". This will primarily be aimed at the singers attending the course, but will also be open the public. Sarah is passionate about educating everyone about the glories of the viola da gamba and this aspect of CRMSS Pacific 2024 will be a unique treat for everyone!

Precise details will be posted here when they're confirmed.


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Full price for a singer


Student rate

Anyone who is enrolled in full or part-time education at the time of the course (August 4th to 11th, 2024), studying any subject, qualifies as a current student. If you are scheduled to graduate at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, you also still qualify as a student.

If finances are a barrier to participation, please speak to us about it and we will try to assist, as we're able. If you would like to support the tuition fees of others who need it, please get in touch with us about making a designated donation.

Our instrumental offering at CRMSS Pacific 2024 is still being finalised. If you are an instrumentalist with experience playing music from the Renaissance and would like to get involved, please do get in touch with us. The cost for you of participating in CRMSS Pacific 2024 will depend on the nature of how you get involved and as our plans firm up, we will publish more information on this website.

You will need to cover your travel to Burnaby and your accommodation, if required, during the weekend. While CRMSS doesn't bear these costs, we do try to help as much as we can with your logistics.


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CRMSS Pacific 2024 will be held at St. Helen's Parish in Burnaby, British Columbia.

The address is: 3860 Triumph Street, Burnaby BC, V5C 2A6

You can find directions to Huron on our contact page.