Children's choir will sing on despite teacher dispute 

Choir and youth band now located in Millennium Place

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Everyone welcome Whistler youngsters will be practicing their singing with the Whistler Children's Chorus starting on Tuesday, Sept. 2. Their first public performance is on Sept. 21.
  • Photo submitted
  • Everyone welcome Whistler youngsters will be practicing their singing with the Whistler Children's Chorus starting on Tuesday, Sept. 2. Their first public performance is on Sept. 21.

Whether or not the B.C. teacher strike ends and schools reopen on Sept. 2, Whistler Children's Chorus will not be cancelled.

"We have music to do," says the choir's co-organizer, teacher Alison Hunter.

"The choir is really important because it builds a whole sense of community. Children really need regular routines."

The fall session sees the choir moving to its new home of Millennium Place.

"It's International Peace Day on Sept. 21 (at Whistler Olympic Plaza) so we've got songs to learn. It's a lovely, lovely ceremony that we are going to take part in," Hunter says.

The plan is for Tuesday practices. Children in the junior choir (Grades 1 to 3) start their hour-long practice at 4 p.m., while those in the intermediate choir (Grades 4 to 7) start at 4:30 p.m. The two groups come together in a joint half-hour rehearsal between 4:30 and 5 p.m.

"In the past we've done them separately, and when we've had concerts and performances for some it's the first time they've sung together. Doing it this way is really helpful for them. It takes a while to learn," Hunter says.

Annual concerts take place at Christmas and in the spring. They plan to do a War and Peace concert on Remembrance Day with the Whistler Singers, a fundraiser for The Hero Fund, a charity that raises scholarship money for the children of servicemen and women who died in Afghanistan.

"The choir is probably one of the longest-running organizations in Whistler. It's non-auditioned; it's for all the children in our community from Grades 1 to 7. In a choir it's really cool because everybody works together and every single voice is important. I tell the kids that it is like a sports team with no players on the bench," Hunter says.

The choir started off in the first Myrtle Philip Community School, moved to that school's second incarnation, then to Spring Creek Community School 10 years ago, where Hunter teaches music.

"It's time to move again. We are moving to Millennium Place. The youth band is there already," Hunter says.

"I think we need a place that is recognized as a community music centre. They are really working on providing that. It's more accessible for everybody to have it there."

The chorus is now in its 22nd year. Founded by former resident Molly Boyd in 1992, Hunter has been with the choir since the start because her children sang in it.

She explains that the chorus started after child singers were needed for a performance of a choral piece by British composer Benjamin Brittan for Music in the Mountains.

Hunter, who is also a harpist by training, says she has had to adapt her knowledge to running a choir.

"As a harpist, it's like, 'What do you mean you have to worry about when you have to breathe?' I've done a lot of learning."

This includes a post-graduate work in choral conducting.

Hunter co-directs the choir with Janet Hamer.

"We've been doing the choir together as volunteers. In moving it this way and slightly changing the time, we have to be careful because we have full-time jobs. But it's import for the kids and important for the community," Hunter adds.

She says the Whistler Youth Band, which launched earlier this year, also meets next week at Millennium Place, on Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. The plan is for the band to meet weekly on Thursdays.

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