In their almost forty years of performing, the Cape Breton Chorale probably had not to face as much change as they did while preparing for their annual Christmas concert scheduled for Sunday, December 4, 3pm, at St. Andrew’s United Church, Bentinck Street, Sydney.
“With the closure of Holy Angels High School and convent,” explains Rosemary McGhee, acting director of the Chorale, “Sister Rita Clare, the founding director of the Chorale, had to find a new location for the Chorale to rehearse and for storage of all the music, chairs, filing cabinets, bookshelves, and pianos. She also had to locate an office for herself. Moreover, she had to document the history of the Cape Breton Chorale and the Holy Angels Chorale, a time-consuming project.”
In a real spirit of ecumenism, McGhee says, the chorale is now rehearsing in the United Baptist Church on Charlotte Street (with the grand piano from their former rehearsal room at the high school), and the Chorale has an office in First United Church on Whitney Avenue.
“Sister Rita is still the artistic director of the Cape Breton Chorale. She chose the music, arranged the programme, and contacted the guest artists,” McGhee points out.
Because Sister Rita along with her sister nuns from the Holy Angels Convent will be moving into their new accommodations during the week leading up to the Chorale’s Christmas concert, three members of the Chorale have stepped up to lead the singing ensemble on a temporary basis: Paula Jane Francis, the Chorale’s regular accompanist; Chorale member and instrumentalist Peter MacDonald who worked with the men on their group numbers; and McGhee as overall director.
“Big shoes to fill!” McGhee admits. During the autumn, McGee says, Sr. Rita took in one rehearsal and popped in on several others to give her support.
The programme for the Christmas concert, says McGhee, was prepared by Sr. Rita and “is a mixture of familiar, semi-familiar and new carols”, along with the ever-popular audience singalong of well-loved yuletide classics.
The Chorale women will sing selections from Benjamin Britten’s “A Celebration of Carols” and the men of the Chorale have four selections ranging from a beautiful setting of “Ave Maria Stella” to a spirited “Calypso Noel”. The entire Chorale will join together for Holst’s setting of “In The Bleak Mid-Winter”, and an imaginative setting of the “Night Before Christmas” among other offerings.
The special guest performers are The Seton Elementary School Choir, made of Grade 4, 5, and 6 students from the Northside led by Paula Jane Francis, and the All Sorts Consort (Laurie Gorman, clarinet; Richard MacAulay, flute; Barb Stetter, oboe) in their first public performance.
The Chorale joins with the Seton students on “Hope For Resolution”, a moving and powerful juxtaposition of European Chant melody and an anti-apartheid song from South Africa in the Zulu language.
Formed in 1973, The Cape Breton Chorale presently consists of a little more than fifty members from many walks of life ranging in age from their late teens to their sixties and seventies.
General admission tickets for the concert is $15 each and are available from Chorale members, the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop, Charlotte Street, Sydney, and at the door on the day of the concert.