Founded in 1968, the British Columbia Boys Choir has had four artistic directors: Founder Donald Forbes, Gerald van Wyck, Tony Araujo, and currently Edette Gagné. Under their direction the Choir represented British Columbia and Canada around the globe as singing ambassadors in the Netherlands, the United States, Europe, the Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and China. The British Columbia Boys Choir is a four-part secular boys choir, one of the few in North America. Over its 48-year history the Choir has trained over 1000 members who have represented Canada on 35 international tours, performing a demanding repertoire spanning centuries, from Gregorian chant to contemporary works. Programmes frequently include sacred and secular works, selections from musicals and opera, folk songs from around the world, and an assortment of Canadian works; many specifically composed for the Choir. In addition to frequent radio and television appearances, the Choir has made over 20 recordings and a one-hour documentary film, “Summer Song,” profiling the Choir’s 10th tour to The Netherlands and has been viewed on television around the world. The Choir currently has four CDs on the market: Live from Europe (July 2016); If My Voice Had Wings, Home and Spirit. In 2014, to celebrate the Choir’s 45th Anniversary, a book entitled “A Song to Remember” was published by Reikos International.
The Choir has had many special honours including singing on Parliament Hill on Canada Day in 2014 that was broadcast on TV across Canada; singing for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II when she dropped the puck at the Canuck’s Game in Vancouver; Opening GM Place and the Vancouver Library, special TV appearances around the globe and being the ONLY Canadian children’s choir to be booked by professional concert promoters for concert series in theatres across Canada and the USA for the past two decades. The BCBC has had the privilege to be the only Boys Choir invited to perform in the Van Man Choral Summit showcasing male choirs in the Pacific Northwest region for the last three years.
THE CHORAL LEGACY by DAVID DUKE
THE HISTORY OF THE CHORAL TRADITION
It may seem like splitting hairs, but defining the British Columbia Boys Choir is a fairly elaborate proposition: a non-liturgical, SATB (soprano-alto-tenor-bass), boys choir. But what does all that really mean, and, more significantly, why does it matter? In this and a subsequent article, I'd like to provide a bit of background about choral tradition and the implications of both the old and the new repertoire sung by The Boys.
From the beginnings of western classical music, singing has been especially significant. Vocal music designed for church use was, for many centuries, the only music notated and preserved. Chant traditions of the early middle ages (heard in last April's concert) flourished in the many monasteries and churches.
As time went on, composers experimented with intertwining two or more melodic lines and what we now call polyphony became fashionable. Composers came to realize that differing voice types helped highlight the sophisticated interplay that is the hallmark of vocal polyphony. But at that time aspects of church policy effected resources available to composers: mixed choirs were not allowed in sacred contexts and there were many young singers already in the monasteries. The desirability of a complete range of voice types lead to the use of boy trebles in sacred choirs.
Thus for many centuries serious composers wrote their best and most impressive works in service of the church. Unaccompanied (or 'a capella') vocal polyphony was the style of choice and these works were specifically conceived for the blend of boys' and mens' voices.
Today all the serious choirs learn and perform the great historical choral repertoire: modern youth choirs are unable, by definition, to handle the full-spectrum repertoire. Contemporary mixed SATB ensembles can and do perform with sophisticated musicianship but they do not ever have the sound heard by Lassus, Palestrina, Byrd, Josquin and beyond; only male voice ensembles create the sound conceived by the early masters.
But let's go back to the BCBC's fundamental definition: a non-liturgical (in that they are not church affiliated) SATB choir of young people, uniquely equipped to perform the choral masterpieces of the 6th through 18th centuries. That the BCBC is by definition restricted by young tenors and basses is, to put it mildly, non-traditional. These implications, especially regarding new choral work tailored for the ensemble, will be covered in an article next issue.
Edette Gagne, Artistic Director
A charismatic and dynamic conductor, Edette Gagne has built a reputation for excellence in musical performance in her work. Her passion for music is fueled by intense musicianship and attention to detail, and Edette's performances reflect both careful adherence to performance practice and the high standards she sets for both herself and her ensembles. Edette holds a Master of Music degree in conducting from the University of Calgary, Bachelor degrees in arts and education from the University of Alberta, as well as Associate Performance Diplomas in piano and voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. She has studied conducting with Helmut Rilling, Toshi Shimada, Paula Holcombe, Allan McMurray, Frank Klassen, Kenneth Woods, David Hoose and Christopher Zimmerman.
Her conducting experiences have now circumnavigated the globe, with shows conducted across Canada, Sydney Australia, Los Angeles and New York City. She is in great demand as a guest conductor, adjudicator, vocal coach and lyric soprano. A strong proponent of new and rarely performed works, Edette has conducted several World, North American and Canadian premieres.
Presently, the Canadian West Coast is her home, where she is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Coast Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor of the WVYB String Ensemble and Youth Orchestra, the Associate Conductor of the British Columbia Boys Choir, and the Music Director for the North Shore Light Opera Society.
Read Jen Holstein's interview with Edette HERE>>
Executive Director, Margot Holmes
Margot Holmes has been working with the British Columbia Boys Choir for the past 20 years. She has gained a wealth of experience working with boys that love to perform and cultivating their careers. Margot works in the field of arts management and is the owner of Caline Artists International where she has developed the careers of professional artists and works with community based non-profit arts organizations. Margot currently works with the Vancouver island Symphony and the Malaspina Choir in Nanaimo in addition to her work with the Boys Choir. Margot has an extensive list of artistic contacts across North America and around the globe. Caline Artists International was awarded Agent of the Year Award from the BC Touring Council in 2008. Margot studied Oboe Performance and Choral Conducting at the University of Western Ontario, London. She has a keen interest in youth and is interested in their development as performers as well as people. Margot is an experienced tour manager and has guided the choir on over 30 local and international tours.
BCBC Board of Directors 2016-2017
Charitable Registration # 133712851 RR 0001
Lynn Mackinnon, President
Anntonette Keogh, Vice President
Members at Large:
Megan Owen, Nina Von Keysesrlingk, Bianca Fusco Zanatta
Edette Gagne and Margot Holmes