The national Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa this year had an Okanagan presence as a high school choir from Mount Boucherie Secondary represented B.C. at a prestigious choral festival held last weekend at the National Arts Centre.
The 25-member strong Mount Boucherie Chamber choir, made up of Grade 10, 11 and 12 students, was participating in the 16th annual Unisong Choral Festival with choirs from across the country.
The local choir was invited to participate by organizers of Unisong and is believed to be the first choir from outside of the Lower Mainland invited to represent the province at the festival.
Despite the hard work preparing, the months of fundraising and a schedule that saw the students rehearsing two to three times a day while in Ottawa, choir teacher Kim Kleineberg said it was all worth it.
“It was amazing,” she said. “When they were up there singing as part of a 400-voice massed choir with the National Arts Centre orchestra, I was just falling apart. It was beautiful.”
In addition to singing as part of the massed choir, the students also had the limelight to themselves on several occasions, including a recital in the rotunda of the House of Commons, on stage at the NAC earlier on Sunday, prior to the night-time concert that also featured well-known Maritime fiddler Natalie McMaster and noted Canadian classical pianist Alain Lefevbre.
“The acoustics (in the House of Commons) are incredible,” said Kleineberg.
The students also sang outside the National Arts Centre, drawing attention from many passers-by.
“People would just stop, walk over to listen and others would stop their bikes, hop off and listen,” she said.
The massed choir featured at the Canada Day evening concert was led by guest conductor Elroy Frisen, a music instructor at the University of Manitoba.
But Kleineberg said it was not all work for her students.
In addition to the rehearsals, recitals and concert performances in front of a packed house at the NAC, the students got to see several sights in the nation’s capital, including the House of Commons, the Museum of Nature, and a trip across the Ottawa River to nearby Hull, Quebec, as well as watching the Canada Day fireworks display on Parliament Hill that brought the festivities in Ottawa to a close.
But it was the music that brought the choirs together and Kleineberg described the repertoire and the organization of the event as “incredible.”
The Unisong event takes place during the national Canada Day celebrations each year and choirs representing each province are invited to take part. It’s billed as an event that brings Canadians together through song.
Despite singing a raft of Canadian works with little time to prepare, Kleineberg said her singers carried it off beautifully and she was very proud of them, especially given that they had travelled the greatest distance to participate.
“It’s not the greatest timing for a teacher (given it occurred right at the end of the school year when marks are due and reports need to written) but I would do it again in a heart-beat,” she said.
As for the students, she said while they were kept busy throughout their visit, they also seemed to enjoy the experience.
“With all the history in Ottawa, the French and English culture, it felt like being in another country,” she said.