Plenty of events were planned for the big celebration of Canada’s 150 on Parliament Hill.
One was the Unisong Choral Festival. It features choirs from across the country, including one from Calgary that has a Saskatchewan connection.
Chellan Hoffman is the music director at Knox United Church in Calgary. She grew up on a farm outside of Ebenezer, Sask. — about 12 miles north of Yorkton.
Being a farm kid, Hoffman said she was encouraged by many people to participate in music which led her to finding a passion for it, and continued to make it her career.
“In junior high, my music teacher, Murray Stewart, led a fabulous choir and so I started singing there,” she said.
“Then I moved to high school where Joe Hary was the choir and band director and he had me not only sing but accompany the choir and I think, you know, that experience of performing at a younger age really sets you up for opportunities that come your way when you’re older.”
Hoffman also gave praise to Hart Godden, who many in the Regina music community would know.
“He was my first pipe organ teacher,” she said. “He just developed such a vibrant music program with great choirs and encouraged us as musicians, as pipe organists, to play, so that was the beginning and now I’m hooked.”
She went on to say she’s traveled with the choir she’s with, along with another, Scarboro-Knox United before but this trip to Ottawa for Canada’s 150 celebration takes the cake.
“Last year my choir, joined Scarboro-Knox choir and we went into a mass choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City … we thought that would be the pinnacle of our little church choir careers but this is a huge thrill!”
The choirs were given the music to sing back in January and have been practicing for Saturdays events since.
“From my understanding, this is the biggest group so far,” she said. “There’s over 600 singers in the mass ensemble. I think over the years its ranged from 300 to 400 people but because it’s Canada’s special birthday, they’ve increased the invitation.”
The choir is performing at two venues for the day. First the Shaw centre, which is just down the street from the Parliament building. The second place will be the grand opening of the National Arts Centre (NAC).
“I understand it’s been under renovation and they’re having a grand opening,” said Hoffman. “Prince Charles and Camilla duchess of Cornwall will be there to cut the ribbon and our big 600 choir ensemble will be the first performers to sing in that space along with the NAC orchestra.”
Hoffman added they’re singing an array of music. One song in particular was written by Kathleen Allen, a Canadian teacher along with her students across the Inuit region of Nunatsiavut. The song features English, French and Inuktitut.