Fifty years ago a phone call and an ad in the Driftwood inspired by the joy of singing led to the establishment of the Salt Spring Singers. Twenty-seven charter members, under the direction of Ruth Barker, gave their first concert in the spring of 1974.
And this year, the Singers celebrated their 50th anniversary with a spring concert called Broadway Gold, an exciting review of musicals ranging from a Gershwin medley, through selections from Lerner and Lowe, West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz and many well-loved individual songs.
Another way that the choir gives back to Salt Spring is through the scholarship program. Each year a graduating GISS student can apply for a scholarship and each year a community music award is also available. For more information visit the Singers’ Scholarship webpage.
The choir that has an extensive music library has performed in at least 8 European languages as well as Latin, Hebrew, Chinese and Swahili. And the styles have ranged from Renaissance madrigals to John Rutter’s newly arranged “Hymn to Ukraine”. Other highlights are two performances of Carmina Burana (and the solo by the late director Mitch Howard of the roasting goose may still be viewed on You Tube), folk songs from across Canada, a simplified version of A Christmas Carol, and even some opera selections. They have also sung 2 compositions especially created for them!
And this has not been done alone. They have also performed concerts with the GISS Honour Choir, Bandemonium/Swing Shift, Centus, Angelicus String Ensemble, Island Brass Players, Luann Katz, Alan Moberg, Bill Henderson, and A Joyful Noise (who came from Edmonton to join the Singers). Other accomplished singers and musicians have helped the Singers share the joy of music.
While that joy of singing is a large reason the choir continuing singing, current president Jean Brouard notes that the “big thing is the role in the community. Membership, directors and singers have changed over the years, affecting many people on Salt Spring”. There is also the concept of a cooperative effort—everyone working together to create one beautiful sound. Pre-covid the Singers performed in December at Greenwoods and went caroling through Ganges as well as participating in Remembrance Day events.
The social aspect of working together to create something beautiful cannot be overlooked. Long time member Connie Holmes joined the choir upon moving to Salt Spring and fit it into her busy schedule as a nurse. She has many friends who currently sing in the choir and or are former members. She particularly enjoyed the way different directors have brought their individual focus to the choir and the fact that membership and the program can appeal to all ages.