Rachel Grantham (guest conductor, left), Barbara Chamberlin (conductor), Barry Kitchen (choir accompanist) and Henry Klassen (guest conductor) are part of the Whitehorse Community Choir’s 25th Anniversary Concert

by Jan Horton
The Whitehorse Community Choir’s 25th Anniversary Concert takes place May 4 and 5 at the Yukon Arts Centre

“It keeps me young at heart,” said Barbara Chamberlin, musical director of the Whitehorse Community Choir. Barb’s enthusiasm, knowledge, musicality and great sense of humour carry the choir through the hours of rehearsal needed to polish each phrase of each song for their spring concert.

“Yo ho, yo ho.” Barb and Barry Kitchen, stellar accompanist, work together in harmony (of course) in rehearsal. The choir sections work the line from “Hoist the Colours,” over and over again. Who knew that one simple line would need so much work? A rehearsal break is called, and a babble of happy chatter erupts. Many of the choristers echo Barb’s joy in music.

Why do they sing? “It feeds my soul!”

“We create magic.”

“It releases tension and lifts the spirit.”

“I like to be in the music.” The Whitehorse Community Choir is preparing for their 25th Anniversary Concert, to be held May 4 and 5 at the Yukon Arts Centre. The choir is doing it up in grand style with a festive pre-concert reception starting at 7:30 p.m., followed by the concert at 8 p.m.

The reception will feature visual displays, recordings and the chance to chat with choir members new and old. The choir is inviting guests to wear silver to the concerts, to celebrate the anniversary in solidarity with them.

“It’s going to be a fun evening!” said Judy Pelchat, board member and reception organizer.

The concert program will include some – not all, Barb hastens to add – of the choir favourites over the years. The songs range from the African song “Rain, Rain” to Mozart’s “Dies Irae”. A powerful Canadian piece honouring French, English, and Inuit culture, called “Music of the Land”, will be adapted to incorporate Yukon First Nation music.

In honour of the anniversary, past musical directors have been invited to lead one or two of the songs they conducted during their tenure. Long-time choir fans will recognize the names of guest conductors Rachel Grantham, Henry Klassen and Maurice Wearmouth. The program will also include tributes to the late Andrew (Jim) Wilhelm-Boyles, the founding conductor for the Whitehorse Community Choir. Choral music has been part of the Whitehorse music community since at least 1954, when the Whitehorse Choral Society was started, led by Maurice Dean. Henry Klassen is still amazed that Maurice talked the City Council of the day into buying three grand pianos for Whitehorse!

Henry Klassen took the helm of the Choral Society in 1967 and was followed by Maurice Wearmouth in 1982. Henry exudes a calm demeanour, but choral music is clearly in his bones – as he demonstrates when bringing choir to full voice rehearsing “Dem Bones.” After 50 plus years of song, Henry is pleased to know that there is continuity in the Whitehorse choral community; that people keep coming along to keep it going.

Rachel Grantham took over leadership of the Community Choir in 1994, stepping in when Andrew (Jim) Wilhelm-Boyles moved away. With a break to get more choral education, Rachel led the choir until 2005. During her education leave, Henry Klassen stepped in again to fill the leadership role.

Maurice Wearmouth will be flying in from Outside to take part in the concert, taking the baton for “Goin’ Home”, a lovely lyrical piece.

Rachel will be conducting “The Marvelous Work” from Haydn’s Creation, with Sonja Anderson as soloistRachel recalls that the choir first sang the piece during the 1998 Gold Rush Centennial celebrations. She chose it then for its classical familiarity and because it was 100 years old in 1898. Anniversaries are clearly a theme.

It’s going to be an entertaining evening. You won’t want to miss it!

The Whitehorse Community Choir’s 25th Anniversary Concert takes place May 4 and 5 at the Yukon Arts Centre, reception is at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Concert tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Centre and www.YukonTickets.com.

Jan Horton is a member of the Whitehorse Community Choir.

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