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‘We’re a choir, but more importantly we’re a community’

Whistler Children’s Chorus and Whistler Singers recruiting new members of all abilities as choral season gets underway
The Whistler Children’s Chorus performing last spring at the Whistler Public Library.

An interesting sign of the Whistler Singers’ diverse membership is the cross-generational connections forged within the group. Primarily an adult choir, the Whistler Singers also welcomes local high schoolers into the fold, with members typically ranging in age from their late teens to their 80s or 90s.

“Sometimes some of our younger people are finding accommodation through our older ones that have more of a network here. There’s carpooling going on,” says longtime musical director Alison Hunter. “We have had people come with babies to choir and at the end of the rehearsal, they can’t find their baby because the poor thing has been passed around so much.

“So, yes, we’re a choir, but more importantly we’re a community.”

Formed in the early ’80s, the Whistler Singers, and, for that matter, its sister group, the Whistler Children’s Chorus, have undergone several iterations over the years, but at their root is the same philosophy: creating a warm and inviting space for singers of all abilities to connect over a shared love of choral music.

“There’s no auditions. We have people who have been pro musicians, people who read music easily, and we have people who don’t know what those little black dots on the paper are,” Hunter adds.

The same can be said for the Whistler Children’s Chorus, open to kids from Grade 1 to 7, with artistic director Jeanette Bruce noting that, although weekly rehearsals culminate in performances, the process is more about the journey than the destination.

“Every kid is different, and they might love singing at rehearsal but are terrified to sing at a concert,” she says. “The idea of separating choir from the need to perform and valuing what happens in rehearsal just as much, if not more, as what happens at concert was an important lesson for me.”

The kids’ choir’s repertoire runs the gamut from traditional classical numbers to Disney favourites. “Anything from familiar pop tunes to music written for children’s choirs to traditional stuff and everything in between,” Bruce notes.

Like the Whistler Singers, the local children’s choir doesn’t require any prior experience or musical knowledge—although, as Bruce explains, for kids looking to, say, learn how to read music, that’s something she hopes to tackle this year.

“Even though we don’t require kids to read sheet music, we do provide sheet music, so they are seeing it,” she says. “We like to encourage them to follow along with sheet music even if they’re like, ‘What the heck is this?’ That’s something I’m keen to dig into more this season, demystifying that a little bit.”

For the older kids, there are also leadership opportunities within the children’s choir.

“They’ll often help with leading half the group if we’re singing songs with harmonies or two parts,” Bruce said.

Both groups are now gearing up for another busy choir season, with the choirs singing as part of Whistler’s Remembrance Day Ceremony in November, as well as singing carols on Fridays and Saturdays in December throughout the village. Both choirs will host separate Christmas concerts, before coming together to perform at the long-running and ever-popular Christmas Eve Carol Service at the library on Dec. 24.

Both groups are currently accepting new members while choir season is just getting underway. Email [email protected] to inquire.

The Whistler Children’s Chorus meets Tuesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. at the library, while the Whistler Singers meet the same day every week, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Myrtle Philip Community School.

Barbed Choir, Whistler’s informal, drop-in rock ’n’ roll choir, meets at the library every Sunday, starting Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. At that session, the choir is singing the ’80s hit “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League. There’s no need to register in advance, but you can email Bruce at [email protected] to be added to the mailing list. There’s also a Barbed Choir Facebook group to stay up to date.