Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir

The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, Winnipeg's principal oratorio choir was founded in 1922.

Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir

The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, Winnipeg's principal oratorio choir was founded in 1922. It was formed that year as the Winnipeg Philharmonic Society by Hugh Ross - b Langport, Somerset, England, 21 Aug 1898, d New York 20 Jan 1990; ARCM, FRCO, BA (Oxford), D MUS (Oxford) - who moved to Winnipeg in 1921 as organist-choirmaster of Holy Trinity Church and conductor of the Winnipeg Male Voice Choir, and also founded the Winnipeg Orchestral Club in 1923 before moving to New York in 1927 to conduct the famed Schola Cantorum.

A choir of 150 to 200 voices drawn mainly from the city's churches, the Philharmonic Society made its first public appearance 11 Dec 1922 in a program of part-songs, with the soprano Anna Case as guest soloist. Further performances under Ross included Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony and Brahms's A German Requiem, both with orchestra. Ross was succeeded by Douglas Clarke, during whose term (1927-9) the St Matthew Passion was presented. With the appointment of Peter Temple in 1929 the choir, until then an independent organization, became an affiliate of the Men's Music Club of Winnipeg. The climax of Temple's tenure was a performance of Holst's The Hymn of Jesus in 1931.

Bernard Naylor succeeded Temple, conducting 1932-5. After Naylor and during World War II, Herbert Sadler and Filmer Hubble sustained the choir. Dimitri Mitropoulos conducted performances of Messiah in 1944 and Elijah in 1946, the accompaniment provided by his Minneapolis (later Minnesota) Symphony Orchestra. Hubble prepared the choir for these performances.

Naylor returned for one season (1948-9) and was succeeded in 1949 by the new conductor of the revived Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Walter Kaufmann. Subsequent conductors were Donald Leggat 1953-5, Lucien Needham 1956-60, Sydney Bryans 1960-6, and Melville Cook 1966-7. In 1969 control of the choir passed from the Men's Music Club to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Stewart Thomson served 1967-75 as chorusmaster, succeeded in 1975 by Henry Engbrecht. Performances in the 1970s included Bach's Mass in B Minor under George Cleve (1976), Beethoven's Missa solemnis under Piero Gamba (1973), and Britten's War Requiem (1974) under Brian Priestman. Under Engbrecht the choir commissioned Canadian works including Neil Harris'Landscape, and offered such lighter fare as works by P.D.Q. Bach and Gilbert and Sullivan.

1980 - Present
In 1982 the choir, then numbering 110 voices, again became independent from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (but has continued to collaborate with it), and Barry Anderson replaced Engbrecht for one year. The choir performed Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony (1983) with the orchestra under Simon Streatfeild. Engebrecht returned as musical director 1983-90, succeeded by Gary Froese and, in 2000, by Yuri Klaz (b Petrozavodsk, USSR, 1957; MA [Leningrad Conservatory]; he became in 2003 artistic director and conductor of the Winnipeg Singers and directs several Winnipeg choirs).

Noteworthy Performances

The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir has performed Bach's Mass in B Minor (1985), Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem (1987), and Edward Elgar's Dream of Gerontius (1990) with combined choirs under Bramwell Tovey. It performed at Carnegie Hall in 1995 and has performed in Toronto. The choir performed in 2005 Fauré's Requiem, Verdi's Stabat Mater, and Bach's Cantata No. 4 (Christ lag in Todesbanden), and in 2006 Mozart's Requiem, with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Winnipeg Singers. In 2006, the choir performed Mozart's Mass in C minor, KV 427 (Levin edition), with the Winnipeg Singers and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. Its 2008-09 season included concerts with the Winnipeg Symphony and other choirs (excerpts from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and Choral Fantasy), a concert of Canadian music, and a concert of songs of the British Isles. The choir participates in Winnipeg's live music consortium, Musicnet.


Christmas with the "Phil": Willan Hodie Christus natus est - et al. Northern Brass, Engbrecht conductor. 1988. Attic CAT-1268 (cass)

In Concert - The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir: Schubert Mass in G - Handel 3 coronation anthems. S. Richardson soprano, J. Martens tenor, N. Lohnes bass, B. Anderson organ, Engbrecht conductor. 1976. WCRC [no number]

A Noteworthy Christmas: Great Canadian Choirs Sing Holiday Favourites. 1996. Time Machine TMV Inc., SCC CD 0196

A Rodgers and Hammerstein Festival. Milsom soprano, DuBois tenor, Pedrotti bar, Engbrecht chorus master, Winnipeg SO, Kunzel conductor. 1982. MMG D-MMG-114/Fanfare DFL-9022X/Pro Arte CDD-371/(selections) CMEA Canadian Artists Series II

Further Reading