Tag Archives: Whistler Children’s Chorus

Singing Through Whistler’s History

For this week, I decided to write about something that has always defined Whistler for me.  No, not skiing, but choir!

I first came to Whistler with my high school choir for the 2010 Whistler Music Festival, and returned again in 2013.  I joined the Whistler Singers when I came to town last September, and we received a donation at the museum of concert programs, membership lists and song listings from a choir member several months later.  With all this in mind, I set to work scouring the archives for anything that could help construct a history of choirs in Whistler.

The Whistler Singers under the direction of Molly Boyd.  Whistler Question Collection.

The earliest reference found was a photograph of the Myrtle Philip School Choir in the December 20, 1978 edition of The Whistler Question.  As the school had only opened in 1976, this shows that musical education was available from the very early years.

Another Question photo, dating from 1979, shows a group of young vocalists referred to as the “Community Club Christmas Carol singers.”  Various BC choirs gave performances in Whistler in the 1980s, including the Squamish Youth Chorale, a Vancouver a capella group Vox Humana, and the Kildala choir from Kitimat.

Whistler’s first adult choir – the Whistler Singers – began in 1982 with just nine people.  It may have started small, but the members’ shared passion for music would carry them on to become Whistler’s longest-running community arts group.  Welcoming “anyone aged 13 to 113,” it regularly performs at Remembrance Day and Christmas Eve carol services and performs an annual spring concert.

It was an Easter sunrise service without sunshine, but that didn’t stop approximately 80 people from attending the special 7 am service Sunday morning on the shores of Lost Lake. Molly Boyd, playing the organ, led the Whistler Singers who also turned out in full force.  Whistler Question Collection.

In April 2003, the Whistler Singers – now 45 strong – released its debut CD, Ascend.  The album included Canadian classics, folk anthems, traditional scores, and songs in Hungarian, Welsh, Japanese, Korean and Swahili.  Juno-award-winning sound engineer Don Harder lent a hand with the recording and local photographer Leanna Rathkelly designed the album’s cover.  This milestone was celebrated with a release party at the Maury Young Millennium Place (now the Maury Young Arts Centre).

The Whistler Children’s Chorus is another time-honoured staple of the Whistler musical scene.  This group began in 1991 when a Vancouver orchestra performing Noye’s Fludde, an operatic version of the story of Noah’s Ark, sought a children’s choir to sing with them.  Whistler Singers director Molly Boyd rose to the occasion and assembled a group of youngsters aged six and up.  The following year it formally became known as the Whistler Children’s Chorus.  In addition to regularly yearly concerts (including Remembrance Day and Christmas Eve services with the Whistler Singers), the Chorus has performed in Ottawa for the 2002 Canada Day and at events leading up to and including the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games (they got very good at singing O Canada!).

The Whistler Children’s Chorus performing Hakuna Matata, 1995 Photo courtesy Whistler Childrens Chorus

Another children’s choir, the Moving Chords Youth Showchoir, was also active in Whistler in the 1990s.  Information about this group has proved hard to find, but it performed at Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church in the summers of 1998 and 1999.  A thank you card from the choir directors to their sponsor, the Whistler Community Arts Council, can be found in the museum’s collection.

Since the turn of the millennium, Whistler has drawn in musical talent from around the world.  Choirs and small vocal ensembles from outside Canada that performed here in the early 2000s included the Cwmback and Dunvant Male Choirs from Wales, the Dursley Male Voice Choir from Gloucestershire, the British quartet Cantabile and Huun Huur-Tu, throat singers from the state of Tuva in Siberia.

Wherever you are from, Whistler is sure to bring a little music to your life.

Holly Peterson is the archival assistant at the Whistler Museum and Archives.  She is here on a Young Canada Works contract after completing the Museum Management and Curatorship program at Fleming College (Peterborough, Ontario).

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It Started With an Ark

As Whistler enters the (somewhat) slower season of autumn, Arts Whistler is presenting Fall for Arts, a collection of exhibitions, classes, performances and more highlighting the diverse arts and artists this town has to offer.  In this spirit, we offer a brief look back at one of the older (or younger, depending on how you look at it) performing groups in Whistler: the Whistler Children’s Chorus.

The Whistler Children's Chorus performing Hakuna Matata, 1995

The Whistler Children’s Chorus performing Hakuna Matata, 1995.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus.

The Chorus began in 1991 when Molly Boyd, already the director of the Whistler Singers, was asked to put together a group of children to perform with a Vancouver orchestra putting on Noye’s Fludde (an opera based on Noah’s Ark) in Whistler.  Under the direction of Boyd this group would become known as the Whistler Children’s Chorus in 1992, accepting members 6 and up with the mandate to “provide opportunities for all children in our community to sing and enjoy making music”.

The first performances of the newly formed Chorus included carolling through the Village with the Whistler Singers and joining the Singers at the Christmas Eve Carol Service (a Christmas tradition now entering its 34th year).  The community of Whistler and its variety of events (ie. ski races) soon offered the Chorus many opportunities to perform.  The Chorus participated in the community’s Canada Day Parade and Remembrance Day Ceremony and annually held holiday concerts in support of the Whistler Food Bank.

The Whistler Children's Chorus in the Canada Day Parade, 1997

The Whistler Children’s Chorus in the Canada Day Parade, 1997.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus.

Most notably, in 2002 the Chorus was chosen to represent British Columbia in the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill as part of Unisong, a 500-voice choir made up of choirs from across the country.  During this visit to Ottawa the Chorus performed in the National Arts Centre, Christ Church Cathedral and at then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson’s garden party.  This trip also taught the valuable lesson that red shirts, white pants and fire hoses do not mix, as adult chaperones sat up late trying to scrub the pink out of once white materials.

Unisong mass choir performing in the National Arts Centre, July 2001

Unisong mass choir performing in the National Arts Centre, July 2001.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus

During the lead up to the 2010 Olympics the Chorus built on their early experiences at parades and races to become veritable pros at performing “O Canada”, as well as the catchy official song of the Torch Relay (complete with choreography).  Beginning well before the Olympics at “A Celebration of Canada” for the IOC in 2003, the Chorus performed for the Bid Announcement on July 2, 2003, the “100 Day Countdown Celebration” in November, 2009, the arrival of the Olympic Torch in February 2010, with Norman Foote during the Olympics, and at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Paralympic Games.

Whistler, BC, February 5th 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Whistler. The Whistler Children's Choir and the Whistler Singers will sing, "There's a Light/ Cette Flamme," Photo: Ian Robertson / coastphoto.com

Whistler, BC, February 5th 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Whistler. The Whistler Children’s Choir and the Whistler Singers sing, “There’s a Light/ Cette Flamme,” Photo: Ian Robertson / coastphoto.com

Now in its 24th season, the Whistler Children’s Chorus continues to provide opportunities for children to sing and make music.  They can next be seen performing a spooky selection of songs October 30th at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church.  For more information check out their website or find the choir on Facebook.

If you fancy singing yourself, consider joining the Whistler Singers (Wednesdays at Maury Young Arts Centre) or Barbed Choir (Sundays at the Point).  All are welcome.

 

By Allyn Pringle