By Paula Mazulquim
To promote Brazilian music, divulge its beauty and promote social integration of the Brazilian community in Canada is the mission of the first Brazilian choir sprung from Canadian soil. Folklore, Bossa Nova, traditional international music and – of course! – a lot of Popular Brazilian music will form the repertoire of this unprecedented initiative in the country. Mihail Pronin, a professional engineer and a passionate conductor in his free time, is the coordinator of the project and here he tells us how it all began.
Even though you have a technical degree in electrical engineering and a graduate degree in advertising and marketing in Brazil, you have always been involved in musical activities. How did this come to be?
Mihail Pronin – Since 2000, I have worked as a consultant for environmental companies in Canada, Brazil and Europe but it is not just today that music has been present in my life. When I was nine years old, I began studying the piano and at 14 I continued to study this instrument at the Musical Gomes Cardim Conservatory, in São Paulo.
What made you interested in choral music?
Mihail Pronin – Whenever possible, I would sign up with school choirs. In 1975, I joined the ‘Coral da USP’ (University of São Paulo) conducted by the famous maestro Benito Juares and this is when I became interested in choral music. It was a time of intense musical activity, festivals and presentations in municipal theaters in São Paulo and Campinas.
And your career as an engineer never conflicted with your participation in the choirs?
Mihail Pronin – Just the opposite, it created opportunities. In 1980, when I was a telecommunications engineer at Telesp (São Paulo Telecommunications), the company started a choir and invited the maestro Jonnas Christiansen, one of the most renowned conductors in the world at that time. It was a time when I could participate in many performances and travel to many cities in São Paulo.
When did you have a chance to learn about conducting a choir?
Mihail Pronin – From 1985 to 1989, after maestro Jonas Christiansen passed away. The Telesp choir was led by the maestro Roberto Tibiriça. I learned a lot about conducting a choir during these years.
And you never stopped?
Mihail Pronin – No! In 1991, I was the assistant for the Telesp choir for almost four years until the company decided to end the choral. That was when I joined the group at Alvares Penteado University, in São Paulo.
And Canada? How did that come about?
Mihail Pronin – The opportunity to develop business in Canada radically altered the course of my life. Nevertheless, the Idea to start a Brazilian choir was always on my mind, ever since I moved here, over 11 years ago. I teach piano and I have participated in the Common Thread Community Chorus of Toronto, a choir with a very eclectic repertoire, but I must confess that I miss the songs with Brazilian soul.
Was this when you got the impulse to start the first Brazilian choral in Canada?
Mihail Pronin – I have always been in contact with the local Brazilian community. This way, by sharing ideas with the members, the project began to take shape. We wanted a choral which represented the cultural aspect of our community, as well as their power of reference and social integration.
Have you started already? Who can participate?
Mihail Pronin – Since May of last year, we have been inviting friends and putting ads in the paper. Response was immediate and, in a short time, we were able to form a group of over 20 Brazilians with the same musical spirit. Everyone avidly wanting to participate in the choir! You don’t need experience or a musical background. You just need to be in the mood, have the desire and the good will to sing.
Contact Mihail by-mail: [email protected]