By Mary Ellen Green
Canada’s longest established male choir has been raising the rafters in Victoria since 1892.
The Arion (pronounced a-RYE-on) Male Voice Choir predates the British Columbia legislature (1897) and the Empress Hotel (1908), and has included such prominent members as justice Matthew Begbie, Ira Dilworth and Beverly Fyfe.
The 35-member, four-part (tenor 1 and 2, baritone and bass) choir is also known as the “Lieutenant Governor’s Choir” after being adopted by Iona Campagnolo, the 27th lieutenant governor of B.C.
Led by music director, jazz pianist and choral arranger Peter Dent since August 2011, the Arion Male Voice Choir is getting ready for its spring concert, This Land of Ours, Friday May 11 at Centennial United Church (David at Gorge) at 7:30 p.m. Repertoire for the concert includes Canadian classics from crooners Ian Tyson, Stan Rogers and Rita McNeil, plus other traditional tunes. The concert is a fundraiser for awards the choir hands out annually to two promising male vocalists.
The Ursual Thomas bursary goes to a student at the post-secondary level (2011 winner Paul Luongo).
The bursary was named after Arion’s long-time accompanist Ursula Thomas, who retired last year.
The Arion Choir Harold Treloar Memorial Prize (2011 winner Paul Winkelmans) goes to the most promising senior male vocalist at the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival (Ken Lavigne is a former winner). Treloar was the music director from 1980 to 2000.
“One of the unique things about the Arion choir is the multifaceted membership,” says current choir president John MacDonald. “We come from all walks of life. There are teachers, scientists and funeral directors in the group. We rehearse every Monday, but we’re not so rigid that you can’t miss a practice.”
The membership of the choir has fluctuated from more than 70 members down to its current 35, and although the membership is on the low side right now, board member and tenor Kevin Ramsay says the group is excited at the chance to rebuild the membership. And they’ve got a few things up their sleeves to entice new members to join.
The choir is gearing up for a big year in 2013, with a trip planned to New York City to perform at the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Centre. The three other choral ensembles that Dent directs, Newcombe Singers, Ekoos and Choro Galiano are also heading to New York for the invitation only performance next May.
Just before they leave, they have a concert planned featuring some famous Canadian folk musicians.
“This is unofficially the first of two concerts where we’ll be focusing on Canadian folk music,” says Dent. “We’ve got Shari Ulrich, Barney Bentall and Allison Crowe on board in our tribute to Canadian folk.”
The choir will also be recording a CD.
“We’re not an auditioned choir,” says MacDonald. “We always have room for anyone who can carry a tune in the shower.”
“And you don’t need to know how to read music,” adds Ramsay.
The choir has a new members’ night Sept. 3 after they return from summer break. The choir rehearses every Monday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Centennial United Church (David at Gorge).
Tickets for the concert are available for $15 in advance by contacting the choir at email@example.com or by phone at 250-472-8914.
Donations to the bursary fund will be given tax receipts. For more information visit arionchoir.ca. M
Arion Male Voice Choir
This Land of Ours
Friday, May 11, 7:30 pm
Centennial United Church (612 David)
$20 door/$15 advance