Vancouver Bach Choir. A mixed 150-voice choir founded in 1930 by Herbert Mason Drost
and Harvey P. Wyness. Conductors of the Vancouver Bach Choir have included Drost 1930-4, Ira Dilworth
1935-40, Hugh Bancroft
1946-8, Sherwood Robson
1948-50, Lawrence Cluderay
1950-9, G. Welton Marquis
1959-61, Karel ten Hoope 1961-5, Meredith Davies with chorusmaster Beverly Fyfe
1965-8, Simon Streatfeild
1968-81 assisted by chorusmaster Jon Washburn
1970-4, and Bruce Pullan 1983-2010. Leslie Dala succeeded Pullan as music director in 2010. The choir produces an annual series of five concerts (held at the Orpheum Theatre
beginning in the late-1970s) and performs regularly with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
(VSO). Among others, the choir has appeared under guest conductors Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Rudolf Barshai, Mario Bernardi
, Sir Arthur Bliss, Sergiu Comissiona, Andrew Davis, Irwin Hoffman, Sir Ernest MacMillan
, Peter McCoppin
, Zubin Mehta, Giuseppe Raffa, William Steinberg, Yan Pascal Tortelier, and Bruno Walter. Subsidiary choirs of the Vancouver Bach Choir include the Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus (formed 1984), the Vancouver Bach Youth Choir (formed 1993), and the specialist choirs Anna Magdalena and Sine Nomine (established in the 1990s).
The Vancouver Bach Choir made its first public appearance in June 1930 at the British Columbia Music Festival and presented Bach's Christmas Oratorio
14 Dec 1930 at Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre. In 1934 the choir made its radio debut in the first trans-Canada broadcast of Handel's Messiah
. Although activities were formally suspended during World War II, the choir re-formed in 1950 and participated in a number of notable performances that included Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius
with Maureen Forrester
and Richard Lewis for 'CBC Wednesday Night' (30 Oct 1957), the premiere of Paul McIntyre
with Lois Marshall
(10 Aug 1958), the first Canadian performance of Bruckner's Mass No. 3
(1 Aug 1959), the royal gala opening for the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (15 Jul 1959), the premiere of G. Welton Marquis's God and a Child
(29 May 1962), commissioned by the choir, and in 1967, the western Canadian premiere of Britten's War Requiem
1970s and 80s
In June 1971 the Vancouver Bach Choir was the first Canadian choir to perform at the International Koorfestival, Scheveningen, Holland, where the ladies' section won a first prize and the full choir a third. The full choir was first in the large choir class of the 1978 BBC 'Let the Peoples Sing' competition. In 1977 the choir toured Poland, and sang at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
In 1979 the Vancouver Bach Choir premiered Harry Freedman's Green... Blue... White and in 1983 joined the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the Canadian premiere of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 in Roy Thomson Hall. The choir performed the same work with the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra in 1985 and repeated its Toronto performance for the 1988 farewell concert for Andrew Davis.
The Vancouver Bach Choir's Expo 1986 World Festival Concert at the Vancouver Aquarium was a landmark event. The concert, featuring the choir, the VSO, narrator Knowlton Nash and soloists Judith Forst and Mark Pedrotti, was filmed as a joint production by the CBC and Rhombus Media. The hour-long program, entitled 'Whalesong,' has been shown around the world and won a Gemini Award in 1988.
The choir returned to Europe in 1987, touring England and Wales and performing at St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod with the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra. In 1988 it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the CBC Vancouver Orchestra singing the premiere of Coulthard's When Tempests Rise, and in 1989 participated in the International Opera Festival's 1989 production of Aida at BC Place Stadium, then at the Tokyo Stadium in Japan.
1990s to the Present
By the 1990s the Vancouver Bach Choir had progressed from a regional ensemble of limited repertoire to a sophisticated and flexible organization capable of a wide range of repertoire. Major performances during this period included the BC premiere of Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio
in 1993, followed by the world premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's oratorio Job
in 1997, and premieres of the commissioned works Proud Music of the Storm
by Stephen Chatman
(2002) and the large-scale Sepulcher of Life
by Christos Hatzis
(2004). The choir has also appeared at several festivals including the International Choral Festival in Toronto (1993) and the World Symposium on Choral Music in Vancouver (1993), and performed in England with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle in 1997. The Vancouver Bach Choir and its subsidiaries can be heard on numerous recordings including CBC Records' Serenade to Music: Anthems of the British Empire
(SMCD 5121, 1993), and the self-released Chariot Children
(VBCC 9499CD, 1994), and Young at Heart
(VBYC 9799CD, 1997).
Schafer Psalm; Miniwanka. (Psalm) Streatfeild conductor; (Miniwanka) Washburn conductor. 1969 RCI 434/(Miniwanka) 5-ACM-3
The Vancouver Bach Choir: Bach - Holst - Taylor - Stanford - Vaughan Williams. H. McLean organ. Streatfeild conductor. 1970. Ensemble ES7002
The Two Sides of the Vancouver Bach Choir: Handel - Haydn - Freedman. Streatfeild, Pullan conds. 1971. CBC SM 365
Music for Christmas: Coulthard - Somers - Washburn - Weisgarber - et al. Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus, Wedd organ, J. Phillips tenor, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Brass, Pullan conductor. 1984. VBC 001L
A Simple Song. Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus, Pullan conductor. 1991. Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus VBCC 9101CD
Serenade to Music: Anthems of the British Empire. Vancouver Bach Choir, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Pullan conductor. 1993. CBC Records SMCD 5121
The Chariot Children. Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus, Pullan conductor. 1994. Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus VBCC 9499CD
Young at Heart. Vancouver Bach Youth Choir, Pullan conductor. 1997. Vancouver Bach Youth Choir VBYC 9799CD
Davies, Peter Maxwell. Job. Vancouver Bach Choir, CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Davies conductor. 1997. Collins Classics 15162
Thine Angel Spirits. Gary Relyea, Vancouver Bach Choir, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Pullan and Sergiu Comissiona conds. 1999. CBC Records SMCD 5189
Thelma Reid Lower, Sarah Church
Lower, Thelma Reid. 'The Vancouver Bach Choir: a retrospect,' CMB, 4, Spring-Summer 1972
Mertens, Susan. 'The Bach Choir celebrates,' Western Living, May-Jun 1979
Dykk, Lloyd. 'An old choir's fancy turns to Bach,' Vancouver Sun, 7 Mar 1980
Wilder, Gillian. 'Christmas with the Bach Choir,' Playboard, vol 23, Nov 1988
Lower, Thelma Reid. 'The Vancouver Bach Choir celebrates sixty years,' BC Historical News, vol 24, Spring 1991
Links to Other Sites
BC Choral Federation
The BC Choral Federation website features concert calendars, links to B.C. choral groups, and related resources.
Vancouver Bach Choir
The Vancouver Bach Choir website features concert information, an online newsletter, and notes about the Vancouver Bach Children’s Chorus & Youth Choirs.