Protest and Psychedelia

The Sixties are making a comeback in Whitehorse this week, complete with musicians ranging from Pete Seeger to Led Zepplin.

On May 2 and 3, the Whitehorse Community Choir will offer its take on hits songs of the 1960s in its Songs of Peace and Protest concert at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Choir director Barbara Chamberlin is whole-heartedly looking forward to a change of pace from the usual fare of classical ensembles, Christmas carols, musicals and more.

“I think it’s fantastic that we get to cover songs from the ’60,” she says. “Sometimes our themed spring concerts are not always popular, but we thought a ’60s event would be fun for everyone,” Chamberlin says.

The abundance of tie-dyed apparel at a recent rehearsal in the Arts Centre’s studio space clearly suggested the venture has been fun for Chamberlin and her volunteer choristers.

The Whitehorse Community Choir is a non-auditioning choir, which means anyone with an interest in singing can join. Most choral conductors would consider this a huge challenge, but Chamberlin sees it in a different light.

“It’s nice to see the different vocal ranges that people have, and I have fun pin pointing the different notes that each individual can hit.”

Three other local choirs that Chamberlin directs do require auditions. The Persephone Singers is an all-female ensemble, the Neptunes is all-male, and the Chamber Choir is mixed. These choirs will also be performing at ‘Songs of Peace and Protest’.

One issue that did prove challenging for Chamberlin was creating choral arrangements for the songs of a pivotal decade whose musical fare included soft pop melodies, catchy folk tunes, anti-war protest songs and psychedelic rock.

“Because some of the songs are old, there were not any arrangements available. I ended up having to create 10 compositions,” she says.

Among the artists whose music will be represented in the show are Seeger, Buffy Sainte-Marie, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Beatles.

Songs that will include the Peter, Paul and Mary hit, “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, Ian and Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds”, the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy”, Seeger’s (and The Byrds’) “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, the Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs” and Nancy Sinatra’s chart-topping anthem to independence, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”, among many others.

“It’s a pretty cool list and the choir is doing great with them,” says Chamberlin. “Selecting the songs was a bit tough. I wish we could have done many more, but I am happy with the selection we have.”

In addition to the choir’s regular accompanist, Barry Kitchen, the program will feature some additional local musical talent.

“We have the Suzuki Senior Strings, and a roving band of hippie guitarists to add some flare,” says Chamberlin.

Audience members who feel like dressing for the occasion are encouraged to do so. Any hippie attire is welcome, such as granny skirts, bell-bottoms, tie-dyed tops, sandals, head bands and beads.

Performance dates for Songs of Peace and Protest are Friday May 2 and Saturday May 3 at 8:00 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors/students, $15 for children, and are available at the Arts Centre box office ( or Arts Underground (

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