Winnipeg Boys’ Choir holds on to the high notes

Choir celebrates 90 years with alumni concert May 10

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This article was published 31/03/2015 (2739 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Growing up in the West End, Keith Black learned from a young age how music can stick with you through your life.

Now 76, the River Heights resident joined the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir in 1945. As a six-year-old, Black loved singing in the choir and says that, coming from a musically inclined household, participation was second-nature.

“Singing in the boys’ choir seemed natural. It was just like breathing, it was part of my life and it still is,” Black told The Sou’wester.

Supplied photo The Winnipeg Boys’ Choir circa 1967 at the Grill Room in Eaton’s during the Christmas season. The choir is celebrating 90 years.

Black is one of many who have graduated from the choir since it was founded in 1925. The choir is celebrating 90 years of instruction and performance this season with a concert involving all interested alumni on May 10, 4 p.m., at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church.

Since his time with the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir, Black has gone on to pursue music in other capacities. He hosts a weekly jazz radio show on CKUW every Wednesday, is a member of 53 years with Augustine United Church’s choir, and has also sung tenor in the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir for 36 years.

Black says it was with the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir that his love of music was solidified.

“It was fabulous and was obviously my introduction to choral singing, and 70 years later I am still singing in choirs, so obviously something clicked,” Black said.

“The process of making choral music has been a continuing joy for my whole life.”

The boys’ choir, which boasts over two dozen members today, hasn’t always been such a vibrant and growing organization.

Music director Carolyn Boyes says when she took over the reins of the choir 16 years ago, there was real concern it might shut down.

“In those first years that I was with the choir our numbers were so low and we relied so heavily on parents to run our organization that we could have folded. We could have not continued,” Boyes said.

However, the choir pushed on and with the investment of time, energy and love from the families and directors, it has reached a significant milestone.

“So for me I am very proud that we have it and in our 90th season we are thriving and we’re making music at a very high level,” Boyes said.

Supplied photo/ Dieter Schonwetter The contemporary Winnipeg Boys’ Choir seen in performance at its 2014 winter concert.

The choir has also had a number of successes during its run. The choir has performed at the Winnipeg Music Festival, MusicFest Canada, and in 2000, the choir was invited to sing in Ottawa on Canada Day at national choral festival UNISONG.

“One of our biggest accomplishments musically was singing last spring with Canzona, Winnipeg’s professional baroque choir,” Boyes said. “We sang Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion and it’s a big musical work and the boys’ contribution to that was stellar.”

The May 10 concert will follow a theme of “90 years” and will feature repertoire that celebrates the anniversary. Boyes says the choir will sing Hymn to Freedom by Oscar Peterson, born in 1925, as well as Stan Rogers’ Northwest Passage in commemoration of the recently discovered wreckage of the HMS Erebus.

“We’ve picked some wonderful music not just for the current boys to share but some exciting music for the alumni to learn,” Boyes said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what all those different voices sound like.”

For more information tickets, and alumni registration, go to winnipegboyschoir.ca or contact thewinnipegboyschoir@gmail.com or 204-475-2127.

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