The Story of the County Classic Chorale
In 1982, a group of former members of the Leamington Choral Society met at the home of June Brown to discuss the formation of a new chorus. Helen Law, the founder of the Choral Society, had decided to restructure and reform her choir into the Helen Law Singers. Her new group required fewer singers and some of the former members wanted to continue singing and performing. June Brown knew someone in her church who was willing to direct a new chorus. Sharlaine Reid was approached to become the conductor, Barbara Odell became the first accompanist and the County Classic Chorale began its history of singing together.
The original rehearsal site was Jack Miner Public School in Kingsville, with a move a few years later to our current location at Knox Presbyterian Church in Leamington. It was only natural that the first concert took place in the Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints church where both June Brown and Sharlaine Reid were members. Later concerts took place at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor and an assortment of churches throughout the area with the main venue becoming Knox Presbyterian Church.
Sharlaine eventually passed the baton to Karen Koestler. Since then, a number of talented musicians have directed the chorus, including Elaine Penner, Amanda Bower, Ruth Driedger, Mary Krueger, and currently Paul Wharram. They have all contributed to the growth of the chorus with their varying talents and experience. Each successive director has added to our numbers and to our repertoire. We owe a debt of gratitude to each one.
Our accompanists have changed as well. After Barbara Odell, the piano bench was occupied by John Stone and Linda Cook; but for the majority of the years by Dorothy Botham. Dorothy is an extremely gifted artist capable of adapting to any style of music with ease. We were heartbroken when Dorothy retired after our 30th anniversary concerts in 2012 and we are very pleased to have a former director, Elaine Penner, sharing her musical talents with us once again, this time as collaborative pianist.
The first concerts were performed by fewer than twenty singers with only about four of them being tenors and basses. Currently, we average over sixty members. Our Chorale membership is constantly changing as members stay as long as their work and family life allow, move away or even pass away. A number of founding members are still singing in the chorus and a few are still members of the executive committee. The original members wrote a charter saying that the County Classic Chorale is an executive committee run group dedicated to the enjoyment of singing. The charter ensures that the group will be able to carry on through any changes in directors, pianists or members. Even when circumstances have made continuing with the Chorale difficult, the executive committee has refused to give up and stop the music.
Not only has the number of voices in the Chorale grown, but so has our audience. Since 2011, we have added a third concert to our spring concert schedule to accommodate our growing audiences. We have also been taking our music to other venues to reach a larger portion of our audience. Since 2011, the third performance of the spring concert has taken place at Epworth United Church in Kingsville.
Over the years, we have sung in Latin, French, German, Serbian, English and Swahili. Our music is eclectic and our repertoire ranges from classical works to the contemporary, from Broadway tunes to songs of remembrance and from somber to sometimes silly. During our 30th anniversary concerts, we were particularly proud to premiere our first commissioned piece, My Song of Joy, composed by Larry Nickel and inspired by a poem of the late Fab Ricciardi.
During our 30th anniversary year, we took time to look back to the people who brought us this far and thank them for sharing their time and talent with us. Former members and directors were all invited to celebrate our anniversary with us and many of them answered the call and sang with us during our concert in Kingsville.
We look forward to many more years of new music, new friends and the enjoyment that singing in the County Classic Chorale brings to all of us.
The County Classic Chorale is a member of Choirs Ontario.
County Classic Chorale Singers 2017
Sopranos: Edith Bergen, Sandy Buhler, Ann Cotter, Stephanie de Luca, Elisabeth Dent, Linda Driedger, Kari Lynn Hewett, Sharon Girardin, Lucille Haas, Judy Horrocks, Marta Johnson, Anita Krueger, Wilma Lamb-Stewart, Bonnie Marn, Connie Morse, Joanna Novosedlik, Pam Osborne, Inez Robinson, Eileen Steingart, Hedy Tiessen, Cathy Thomson. Altos: Leslie Balsillie, Susan Boon, Louise Bryon, Laurene Csikas, Jill Cervini, Carolyn Coad, Frances Dearman, Annetta Dunion, Joan Enns, Donna Fracas, Patti Hopper Mary Newland, Sonja Kuli, Jane Piercy-Ballard, Blanche Rabideau, Adriana Reynolds, Sheila van Belle. Tenors: Jane Ann Callow, Barry Mannell, Frank Mauro, Don Matheson, Edward Mulcaster, Gary Stewart, Stan Sullivan, Jim Thomson, Sue Thomson. Basses: Henry Boon, Bob Botham, Jeff Csikas, Ken Cullen, Carmen Danner, John Driedger, Gord Ferguson, Robert Hubbard, Dave Stockwell, Willie Taves, John Tofflemire, Wayne Wharram.
First Night’s rehearsal September 2016
A few selfies…..