Choirs celebrate Celtic music

Spring is coming and so is the merry month of May, when a choir director’s fancy turns to … tartan? Yes, the Whitehorse Community Choir will be celebrating all things Celtic in its spring concert, Ceud Mìle Fàilte (Gaelic for A Hundred Thousand Welcomes) on May 3 and 4 at the Yukon Arts Centre. There will be a riot of colour onstage with the clash of the tartans! Men in kilts! Bagpipes and other traditional instruments! Highland dancers!

Barbara Chamberlin will conduct the choir, along with the Persephone Singers and the Chamber Choir as all three groups sing a repertoire of Scottish, Irish and Welsh songs. Chamberlin said that she has amassed a large number of choral arrangements of Celtic songs over the years. She had been thinking about a Celtic-themed concert for some time before proposing it for this spring’s choral offering.

Choristers have eagerly embraced the concept and have been rehearsing since January. The choir has many members of Celtic heritage who can’t wait to show off their clan colours. Some of them have still retained their native accents, to some degree. The community at large also has a good representation of citizens who can lay claim to some form of Celtic background, so the choir encourages them to come out and hear some of their favourite songs. Even those who can’t claim any Celtic heritage can still enjoy hearing those lovely melodies and charming turns of phrase.

Concert-goers may recognize some common themes running through the evening. There are a number of songs, such as the “Skye Boat Song” and “Charlie is My Darlin,’” that make reference to Bonny Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart), the leader of the ill-fated Jacobite rebellion against the English in 1745/46. Several of the pieces, like “O, My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose” and “The Banks O’ Doon” feature the poetry of Robert Burns set to beautiful melodies.

Not to be outdone by the Scots, the concert includes some lovely Irish offerings such as “The Minstrel Boy,” “Mairi’s Wedding” and “Star of the County Down,” among others. The Welsh are represented by “All Through the Night,” one of the Persephone Singers’ offerings.

The choir often has guest artists joining them on the program and this spring’s show is no exception. How could you have Scottish music without the bagpipes or Highland dancers? Members of the Midnight Sun Pipe Band and local Highland dancers have been invited to participate in the Celtic celebration. Local musicians Katie Avery (violin and guitar) and Jerome McIntyre (bodhrán and cajón) will add their unique touches to a number of the choral melodies.

As the concert is intended to be a celebration of all things Celtic, choristers will be decked out in many types of tartan, including the Yukon and Canadian tartans. See how many different types you can spot! Chamberlin also encourages members of the audience to wear “plaid” and join in the festivities.

Tickets are on sale at the Yukon Arts Centre box office and online at There is a reduced rate for those 18 and under. Get out your tartan gear, take the high road or the low road and come on out with your bonny Annie Laurie!

The choir will also present a modified version of the concert at the Globe Theatre in Atlin on May 11. For more information, contact Heather Keny at [email protected].

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