Q & A with Luisa Alexander Izzo

Q: Where are you from?

A: I was born in New York City, grew up in Connecticut, went to school in Boston. I came to Calgary almost 50 years ago.

Q: How long have you been singing and when/how did you start?

A: I can’t remember when I started singing, but I think I learned to sight-read at an artsy summer camp in my hometown. We sang constantly: around the campfire, at the table, anywhere. We also put on musical shows: I remember doing Alice in Wonderland at age 9 and being cast as a card. When The Festival Chorus performed All in the Golden Afternoon from that show a while ago, I still remembered all the words! In addition, each tent or cabin had to prepare a choral piece each week. They would put the music in front of us and say, “you sing this part, you sing that”. After a while the notation began to make sense. Later I sang in various school and university choirs and the Handel & Haydn Society (‘the nation’s oldest living chorus’) in Boston.

Q: How long with The Festival Chorus and how did you come to join?

A: I first joined in fall 1973. We had royal blue dresses – but they had to make a special one for me because I was very pregnant! I left around 1980 when my family spent a year in Spain, and when we came back, I joined the Philharmonic chorus and then the Opera chorus. Then I spent many years commuting to and from South Africa where my husband was working and couldn’t really be available for any group, either here or there. I came back to The Festival Chorus just a few years ago after my husband retired and moved here. I was so grateful to be able to sing again.

Q: What performances have you enjoyed the most?

A: I think maybe Elijah. I always love the big oratorios. I also loved Missa Gaia, which was entirely new to me. But I have enjoyed virtually every performance. I love the variety of music that Mel picks for us to sing and I like learning and singing in different styles.

Q: What are your favourite selections/songs to sing?

A: Bach and maybe the Renaissance songs we sang (Palestrina, Victoria)

Q: What skills have you developed the most?

A: I think sight-singing, which had fallen off all those years in Cape Town when I wasn’t singing, has improved. My work has always involved language, and I enjoy singing in different languages. But Chinese and Japanese are a real challenge! I’m happy we are working a bit on voice production this year.

Q: How do you think the FC gives back to the Calgary community?

A: It’s clear we have a following. I think audiences enjoy being introduced to a variety of music and hearing the orchestral parts as well.

Q: What is the biggest lesson you took away from this last year?

A: We are social animals – we need our friends and families – but we also need to work together with everyone else to help each other through these hard times. As a chorus, right now we cannot feel that special joy of making music together, but I think ‘gathering’ via Zoom has strengthened the bond we formed through the music. I am so happy to see everyone’s faces each week! Mel and Cody have done a terrific job of broadening our perspective and keeping us learning.

Q: What’s your favourite inspirational quote?

A: Mommy Rose, my Sicilian grandmother: “You feel unhappy? You scrubba the floor.”