Manitoulin Community Choir celebrates 10th anniversary

The Manitoulin Community Choir performs.

MANITOULIN—It was 10 years ago this past May that the Manitoulin Community Choir was formed and has since then entertained packed houses at its two concerts held each year.

“A group of friends had talked about forming a choir,” said Jane Best, conductor of the Manitoulin Community Choir. “It was in May 2006 that we actually held a meeting to look at forming the choir, and we started in the fall of that year.”

“We had 25 singers show up for the first rehearsals, which was a shock. I had expected to get maybe 12 people out,” said Ms. Best. She pointed out the choir has had fairly consistent numbers over the years, with new singers coming on and others dropping out due to jobs or other commitments. “The lowest number we have had in the choir was 17 and the highest was about 35-36.”

“We do a restart of the choir every September and again in January, so people can figure out if they have the time for this commitment,” explained Ms. Best. “One of the most interesting things now is that we don’t go looking any more for new singers. People know that we are singing and rehearsing and they just show up and indicate they want to be part of the choir. Members often invite new singers, and they are welcome, but we don’t advertise.”

“We don’t hold auditions, so joining is not scary,” stated Ms. Best. “We’ve had people come and go, some have tried it for one season and decided they couldn’t commit the time the next season, or they have jobs and responsibilities that take them away from the choir. They move away, have babies, or it can be simply that they can’t hear well enough any more to take part, or the winter drive gets to be too much.”

“The first few weeks in September and January, people can come to the choir and see how they feel singing with us, and after those three weeks we have our choir for that season,” said Ms. Best.

“It takes quite a bit of work and time to practice the songs,” continued Ms. Best. “If they didn’t enjoy doing it, the choir wouldn’t have continued. But when we sing together it creates a good feeling, and it is a happy group to work with.”

Ms. Best noted, “every time the group is renewed in the fall and new year there is a slightly different sound. And people enjoy mixing and matching, hearing all the voices together.”

“The bottom line is I love getting people together to sing,” stated Ms. Best. “Regardless of who is in the choir we are going to sound as good as we are, and sometimes it is wonderful.”

When the choir was first formed Ms. Best not only conducted, but played the piano. This understandably proved to be difficult, but then her mother Joan Eichner began to play for the performances, and then she moved to the Island and took over the role of pianist for the choir. “She has been a huge help to the choir.”

A list of everyone who has sung in this choir, kept current to 2016, totals nearly one hundred people. “Some members only stayed one season, left for university and came back, or moved away permanently, or passed away,” said Ms. Best. “And it can be a family thing. At one point there were three generations of the one family in the choir-we had Jim Munro in the choir and his daughter and his grandkids.”

Last year, with her mother and her daughter in the show, the same could be said of the Bests.

“Singer Peter Gordon has been with the choir forever, and his daughter Robyn was part of the choir at the beginning and now is back. And one season we had John Robertson and his daughter Taylor,” continued Ms. Best.

The choir rehearses in Charles C. McLean school in Gore Bay.

“We have a concert in November and another concert in the spring,” said Ms. Best. The music the choir has presented in its 19 concert seasons has included folk, Canadians, spiritual songs and pop songs, light classical and much more. “Some are funny and some are beautiful.”

Over the 10 years of the choir Ms. Best estimates they have performed 300 songs. “Our two concerts of 2016 have each featured 10 or more of the choir members favourite songs. So we don’t do those ones again in 2017, but take the opportunity to do other Canadian songs. Our upcoming November show will include The Northwest Passage and other favourites like a medley of Lloyd Webber songs. In 2017 the choir will feature works by Canadians and songs about Canada, because of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations taking place next year; songs like ‘Walk in the Light’ and ‘Both Sides Now’ and ‘Song for Canada.’ 

“No, I certainly didn’t know the choir would go for 10 years,” said Ms. Best. The Song and Cider Show, will take place November 26 in Kagawong.