Vancouver Chamber Choir | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Vancouver Chamber Choir

Vancouver Chamber Choir. A 16-voice (beginning in 1982, 20-voice) professional ensemble formed in 1971 by its conductor, Jon Washburn.

Vancouver Chamber Choir

Vancouver Chamber Choir. A 16-voice (beginning in 1982, 20-voice) professional ensemble formed in 1971 by its conductor, Jon Washburn. The first professional choral ensemble in western Canada, the Vancouver Chamber Choir (VCC) has established a strong reputation for its community choral programs and for its performance on the national and international stage.

Along with an annual subscription series of eight to twelve concerts (initially four to six, held first at Ryerson United Church, and then at the Orpheum Theatre and Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, with the addition of the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in 1997), the VCC has toured and performed at major festivals in Canada, the US, Europe, Asia, and Mexico. The choir travelled to China in 1987, to the Soviet Union in 1989, Japan and Korea in 1994, Germany, France, and the Czech Republic in 1997, and Taiwan in 2002.

The VCC has collaborated with a number of high-profile ensembles and soloists, including the Ensemble vocal de Lausanne, the Tudor Singers of Montreal, the King's Singers, the Moscow and Stockholm Chamber Choirs, the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Purcell String Quartet, the Canadian Brass, Colin Tilney, Maureen Forrester, Lois Marshall and Ben Heppner. It has appeared under guest conductors John Eliot Gardiner, Eric Ericson, Helmuth Rilling, Andrew Litton, Tönu Kaljuste, and Frieder Bernius, and itself has been a guest of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

In 1973 the choir became the first Canadian ensemble to win a first-place award in Let the Peoples Sing, the international contest sponsored by the BBC and the European Broadcasting Union, and in 1989 it was named Ensemble of the Year by the Canadian Music Council. In 1994 it was awarded the grand prize at the Takarazuka International Chamber Chorus Contest and in 1998 was the recipient of Chorus America's Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence. Jon Washburn has been honoured on numerous occasions for his work with the choir.

Repertoire and Contributions

The VCC's repertoire is wide-ranging, with a distinct emphasis on contemporary Canadian works and on music that fosters virtuosity and innovation in choral performance and composition. In particular, it has become a specialist in the music of R. Murray Schafer and Imant Raminsh and has premiered a number of their works, including Schafer's A Garden of Bells (1984), Once on a Windy Night (1998), and Fall Into The Light (2004), and Raminsh's Ave Verum Corpus (1977) and What Voices in an Unknown Tongue (2002). In total, the choir has commissioned or premiered some 100 Canadian compositions, most notably by Stephen Chatman, Healey Willan, Thomas Baker, Jean Coulthard, Alexina Louie, David Keeble, Rudolf Komorous, Bruce Ruddell, Jerome Summers, Brian Tate, Jon Washburn, and Elliot Weisgarber.

The VCC also incorporates large-scale works from the standard Western choral repertory such as the requiem masses by Mozart and Brahms, Orff's Carmina Burana, and Bach's Mass in B Minor. It has been heard regularly on CBC radio and is featured on more than 40 recordings, many of which appear on their own label, Grouse Records (established 1982). For its album An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts, the choir received a 1995 Juno nomination and won the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors' 1996 Outstanding Choral Recording award.

Reflecting its support for both professional and community choral music, the VCC has sponsored a number of educational projects for young musicians and composers. In 1974 it was named choir-in-residence of the Vancouver School Board, and in 1981 it launched its annual National Conductors' Symposium. The choir established the biennial Young Composers' Competition in 1992, and has offered five other programs catering to elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students of music. For its contributions to the music community, the Vancouver Chamber Choir was honoured with Chorus America's Education and Outreach Award in 2000.

Selected Discography

Washburn as Conductor
An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts: Willan. 1995. EMI/Virgin Classics VC5 45183 2

BaroqueFest: Bach - Purcell - Handel - Monteverdi. CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Washburn conductor, Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne, Corboz conductor, Okada soprano, Margison tenor, Rudolph flute, Crozier countertenor, Geise tenor, Vermeulen bass. 1986. CBC-SM 5075

Beckwith Harp of David - Weisgarber Night. Purcell String Quartet, Pullan baritone, Fawcett double bass. 1989. Centrediscs CMC-CD 3790

Christmas Carols from Many Lands. 1977. CBC SM-338

Due North: Chatman choral works. Cole oboe, english horn, Haworth narrator, L.L. Thomas piano, Volpe harp. 1988. Centrediscs CMC-CD 3388

Earth Chants: The Music of Imant Raminsh. CBC Radio Orchestra. 2002. CBC Records

Due West: Music of Stephen Chatman. 2000. CBC Records MVCD 1132

A Garden of Bells: Schafer choral music. 1986. Grouse GR-101

Handel Coronation Anthems. CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Bernardi conductor. 1983. CBC SM-5031C/(Zadok The Priest) CBC BHSCD300 (CD)

Haydn - Britten - Brahms. Baroque Strings of Vancouver, Wedd organ. 1973. CBC SM-243

Love Songs for a Small Planet: Glick - Raminsh - Louie. 1993. Centrediscs CMCCD 4893

Music of the Americas: Schafer - Willan - Raminsh - et al. 1983. Grouse WRC1-2584/Grouse GR-100/Marquis MAR-106

Once on a Windy Night: The Choral Music of R. Murray Schafer, vol. 2. Grouse 105

Rise! Shine! The Music of Jon Washburn. 1994. Grouse 102

Simple Gifts: Raminsh - Applebaum - McDougall 1988. CBC SMCD-5097

Songs of the Lights: Raminsh. 1992. CBC Records SMCD 5116

Sweet Was The Song: Willan - Praetorius - et al. Robbin mezzo-soprano, Mowatt harp. 1982. Marquis ERA-107

The World of Folksongs: Willcocks - Brahms - et al. 1977. KVP 700G

Vancouver Chamber Choir. Handel - Debussy - Barber. 1975, 1976. CBC SM-303

Further Reading

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