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Whistler Singers set to unveil concert that has been two years in the making

Originally scheduled for April 2020, the revamped show features choral numbers under the theme ‘From Sea to Sky’ 
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The Whistler Singers choir had to get creative to keep the momentum going during the pandemic, even meeting in choir director Alison Hunter’s backyard for a time last summer.

The Whistler Singers’ concert set for later this month has been a long time coming. 

Originally scheduled for April 2020, a little thing called the pandemic hit, and Whistler’s longest-running arts group could only watch as all of its upcoming gigs dried up. But through a mix of creativity and tenacity, the choir has managed to keep on singing even as other choral groups have floundered. 

“It was interesting because for two years we had to find ways around it,” says choir director Alison Hunter.

That meant meeting on Zoom for a time, “but that’s a tough one for a choir because you can’t all sing at the same time,” explains Hunter. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler was gracious enough to allow members to rehearse in one of its ballrooms last fall—that is, until COVID-19 restrictions ramped up again. They met last summer out of Hunter’s backyard before resuming indoor rehearsals in the fall at Myrtle Philip Community School, where they have voluntarily maintained mask and vaccine requirements.  

“We have choir members that have vulnerable family members, so we’re protecting everybody,” Hunter says. “The BC Choral Federation—who are amazing, I will point out—they just did a recent workshop where they said you’re only as safe as your most vulnerable choir member. So I think my choir is OK now; we’re still singing in masks.” 

The pandemic has also thrown a wrench in the plans for the Whistler Singers’ (and Whistler Children’s Chorus’) biggest show—and fundraiser—of the year, its Christmas Eve Carol Service, which, for close to four decades, has delighted revellers with a set of traditional holiday carols. Usually drawing dozens, if not hundreds, of attendees every Christmas Eve, the service went virtual over the past two years. 

“We did Christmas Eve as a video for the last two years, which was really expensive. It’s expensive to produce because usually the donations cover the cost, but we did not come even near that,” Hunter notes. “But you know what? It’s a community service. That’s what we do.”

Hunter is also hopeful to drive membership up after the pandemic has kept some choir regulars away. Prior to the pandemic, Hunter said the Whistler Singers counted about 50 members; these days there are about 25 regular active members. It’s an opportunity to not only welcome back old members as they grow more comfortable coming out of COVID-19, but also add new members to the already diverse group. 

“We welcome everybody. There are no auditions. I would never turn anybody away,” Hunter says. “Our youngest member, I think she just turned 19. And our oldest member, she’s in her 80s. We have people who work on the mountain, we have accountants, we have people who work at the health-care centre. We have people who drive from Squamish and who drive down from Pemberton. Everybody’s welcome, because it’s about singing but it’s also about being in a community.” 

Teaming with the Whistler Public Library, Hunter and Whistler Children’s Chorus director Jeanette Bruce will be relaunching their multi-generational choral sessions after a pandemic break. The weekly sessions begin May 28 and will run until the end of June. “It’s for families; it’s for everybody,” Hunter says. Check back at whistlerlibrary.ca for more details and to register. 

For their April 24 show at Our Lady of the Mountains Church, the Whistler Singers will bring with them the same repertoire they had prepared for the show two years ago. Featuring a variety of songs under the theme “From Sea to Sky,” attendees can expect some classic folk and choral numbers, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the classic maritime song, “Away from the Roll of the Sea,” and even a song from the beloved musical The Sound of Music, “because, oh gosh, we’re in the mountains,” Hunter says. Sea to Sky String Orchestra violinist Izumi Inoue will also accompany the choir for two numbers. 

The show kicks off at 7 p.m. Entry is by donation. Masks are recommended.