More than 60 talented Choristers filed onto the stage at the FirstOntario Arts Centre Milton on the evening of December 1, 2018. The group’s annual concert this year was entitled “50 Years of Song,” and celebrated 50 years of the choir’s ongoing presence within our community. Chorister Helen Dietz says, “This anniversary represents the power of music to bind community members together in joy and struggle to create the beautiful artistic creation that is choral music.”
The scene was surprisingly cozy within the 500 person theatre – poinsettias lined the foreground of the stage, where string musicians and a pianist prepared to accompany the singers.
The evening’s performance was divided into two distinct halves. The first portion featured a collection of music written by classical favourites such as Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart and Handel. This section beautifully highlighted accompanying soloist singers Gillian Grossman and Susan Black. The second portion included traditional and lively holiday carols such as “The Christmas Song”, “Sleigh Ride”, and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. Others pieces lent themselves to mood of the season, without directly referencing it – “Song for a Winter’s Night”, “You Raise Me Up”, and, quite amusingly, “Do You Want To Build A Snowman.” Dietz describes the importance of the annual concert: “It not only provides an annual artistic event for the local community to enjoy – it also provides the opportunity to have members of the community meet and work together artistically to create the best concert ensemble under the wonderful direction of a series of very talented Artistic Directors.”
In honour of the choral anniversary, the evening honoured Choristers creator (formerly, The Chansonettes) Judy Hunter. Hunter conducted two songs, including “Torches” and “Candlelight Carol.” A parade of former Chorister alumni joined on stage for the final songs. The entire show was, as always, a deeply moving and soul calming experience.
Artistic Director Rachel Cleland conducted most of the evening’s music, but her role within the Choristers goes far beyond this. “My role as Artistic Director is to provide vision and direction to the Milton Choristers. I am responsible for leading all rehearsals and performances, selecting the repertoire for the season and contracting musicians and special guest performers. I am also responsible for recruiting new choristers. Moving forward, I would like to increase our numbers and diversify our demographic both in terms of culture and experience level.”
In addition to the annual concert, The Choristers have a long history of performing at the Milton District Hospital and at various retirement residences. Choristers Board President Kate van Essen describes her expectations for the group in coming years. “My hope for the future of the Choristers is to continue to grow our membership and connections to the community at large. We have been a significant part of the Milton Community since 1968, and there seems to be every indication that will continue well into the future.”