Local choir invited to Ottawa festivities

A West Kelowna high school choir will represent B.C. at the national Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa next year.

The Mt. Boucherie Chamber Choir has been invited to participate in the 16th annual Unisong Choral Festival, held each year in the nation’s capital on Canada Day at the National Arts Centre.

The invitation is believed to be the first for a school choir outside the Lower Mainland.

And it even has the choir’s veteran conductor, the teacher who started the choir program at the school 21 years ago, excited.

“This will be pretty cool,” said a delighted Kim Kleineberg.

She said she received a call from organizers of the festival “out of the blue” asking if her choir would be willing to participate.

In addition to singing on its own at several locations around Ottawa in the days leading up to Canada Day, and then on the holiday itself at the National Arts Centre, the choir will also participate as part of a massed choir during the concert with choirs representing all other Canadian provinces and territories and accompanied by the National Arts Centre orchestra.

“Of course I said yes,” said Kleineberg, who remembers starting the school’s first choir shortly after she started teaching there in 1990 with just 12 students.

Mt. Boucherie now has five choirs, including the chamber choir, the all-female Mt. Boucherie Singers, a jazz choir and for the first time an all-boys choir.

As part of its participation at the Unisong festival, the local students will perform in the rotunda of the Parliament buildings and at an Ottawa church, as well as the main concert where it will join the other choirs and be conducted by guest conductor Zane Zalis, a conductor and composer from Manitoba.

According to event manger Beatriz Garcia, Mt. Boucherie was selected in part because of Kleineberg’s reputation as a music teacher.

“When we asked about choirs in B.C., her name came up several times,” said Garcia.

Garcia said during the Canada Day concert as many as 350 singers can be accommodated on the stage of the National Arts Centre.

The concert is free to the public and plays to good sized crowds every year, said Garcia.

According to the Unisong festival organizers, after five days together, rehearsing, sightseeing and performing, choirs that take part in the event often get to know each other well and some even set up future choral exchanges.

“They return home as musical ambassadors for a united Canada. Through their concerts these choirs demonstrate vividly that Canada works best when Canadians work together.”

The Canada Day celebrations in the nation’s capital each July 1 are billed as the country’s largest national unity celebration. But now that the young local singers have been invited to participate, the hard work of raising funds, learning the repertoire and preparing for next year’s trip will start.

Kleineberg said the school’s PAC has already stepped forward and generous provided money for a deposit to book travel.

Besides fundraising in the community, Kleineberg also plans to approach the B.C. Arts Council and the provincial Arts in Education program to assist with the travel costs.


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