Every Wednesday evening, from September to June, the walls of Ryerson United Church in Vancouver, reverberate with the sounds of a world-renowned choir rehearsing. You may have heard them on national radio broadcasts, in live performance with a Vancouver orchestra, at a local community event, or on one of its eight CDs.
You may know them from regular concerts on Remembrance Day and Christmas Eve. The hairs on the back of your neck may have tingled at the achingly sweet tenor voice of soloist Steve Maddock singing Christmas Angel.
Chor Leoni is one of the world’s finest men’s choirs, and they’re right here in Kerrisdale. Founded in 1992 by Artistic Director Diane Loomer, this Vancouver-based 50-voice ensemble is a leader in the Canadian male choir movement. The group has won national and international recognition (and numerous awards) for its rich, full-bodied sound and innovative programming.
Chor Leoni, which means choir of lions, has dramatically changed the Canadian choral music scene. Their ability to move easily between musical genres, to perform in a variety of languages and styles, continues to inspire choristers across the country.
The group lends its voice to fund-raising efforts in the community, and helps raise money for many worthwhile causes such as the Food Bank. In 2006, the choir recorded as a non-profit project Healing Voices – a collection of contemplative works for use in the hospice/palliative care field.
While a cappella works are the bulk of the choir’s repertoire, Chor Leoni is interested in music from around the world, and is committed to commissioning, performing, and recording new works by Canadian composers such as R. Murray Schaefer, Stephen Smith and Rupert Lang. The choir also runs a mentoring program for young singers.
Chor Leoni is an amateur choir, which means no singers are paid for their participation. The choir maintains an endowment that helps continue the fund-raising work, and provides an enduring base of support for the choir itself. This endowment fund is administered by Vancouver Foundation.
“We have to face the fact that, one day, our present Artistic Director will retire. We have to raise enough money to be able to pay someone of her quality. So we have to build up a reliable source of funding. Vancouver Foundation is helping us to do that.”
Pete Chamberlain, is President of the Board for Chor Leoni. A former Professor of Political Science at UBC, he has sung with the choir since 1996. “We have to face the fact that, one day, our present Artistic Director will retire,” he says. “We have to raise enough money to be able to pay someone of her quality. So we have to build up a reliable source of funding. Vancouver Foundation is helping us to do that.”
“Recently,” says Chamberlain, “we received grants from the Vancouver Foundation to help fund our activities (the Foundation’s Medici Fund helped to build Chor Leoni’s website, which went live in the fall of 2006). Now they’re helping to build our endowment fund, for the future. We hope to have $500,000 by the end of 2008.”
Chor Leoni website: Chorleoni.org
(Story written: 2007)