In 1976 a dynamic group of choral educators founded the Manitoba Choral Directors' Association, re-branded five years later as the Manitoba Choral Association to reflect broadening objectives: to advance an understanding and appreciation of choral music, and to stimulate interest, and develop skills in the choral arts. These goals have, and continue to be achieved through a variety of activities including the creation of opportunities for young singers, the commissioning of choral music by Manitoba composers, the provision of advisory, support, and educational services, the development of an extensive choral library, the publication of a newsletter, and the promotion of Canadian choral music performances.
Beginning in the late 1970s, Manitoba Youth Choir comprised of singers aged 18 to 25 from all over the province, honing their skills in a one-week summer choir camp, followed by a provincial tour. Within a decade, regional choirs were formed – Central, EastMan, WestMan, and most recently, the Interlake Youth Choir.
Since 1982 the Provincial Honour Choirs weekend has involved teenagers, and more recently adults, from across the province. Over a three-day weekend in February, three choirs, one adult and two high school level choirs made up of junior and senior high school students respectively take part in an intensive choral training workshop, facilitated by accomplished and highly respected visiting and local conductors including Diane Loomer, Scott Leithead, Rollo Dilworth, Henry Engbrecht, Elroy Friesen, Derek Morphy and Millie Hildebrand to name a few. In the 34 years of this program’s existence, it is estimated that over 10,000 singers have experienced the excitement and pleasure of singing in an Honour Choir.
ChoralFest Manitoba was founded in 1987 as a non-competitive festival to provide an educational space for choirs of all ages. Held in the month of November the choirs get to work with acclaimed adjudicators and expert clinicians, with adjudicators offering recommendations for choirs to represent Manitoba at MusicFest Canada and affiliated national festivals.
The MCA is associated nationally with the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors (ACCC), now known as Choral Canada. Throughout its 40 years, MCA has provided professional development opportunities for choral directors and singers. In 2004, in cooperation with ACCC, MCA planned and hosted a most successful choral conference called “Podium 2004”, with broad national and international attendance. Biennially, an auditioned quartet of Manitoba singers join other Canadian choristers as members of the National Youth Choir where they receive professional training, working under renowned Canadian conductors. The MCA has also facilitated the Winnipeg performances of outstanding visiting choirs such as Chanticleer (USA), Exaudi (Cuba), Drakensburg Boys Choir (Africa), The Nathaniel Dett Chorale (Canada), Rajaton (Finland), and The King’s Singers (UK).
In addition to its many activities, MCA maintains a comprehensive website where members can access information and register for upcoming events. The association also publishes the newsletter Noteworthy biannually, focusing on local, national, and international choral news. For the benefit of its community, MCA retains an extensive choral music lending library of over 2,500 titles that includes an extensive collection of Canadian compositions, as well as MCA commissioned works by Manitoba composers such as Chester Duncan, Neil Harris, Sid Robinovitch, and Andrew Balfour.
With the help of many generous private and corporate donors and sponsors MCA has developed scholarships and competitions. These include the Bert Kroeker Fund, a choral education scholarship, and the Frances Seaton Competition that encourages the composition of new choral works. Perhaps one of the most vital projects MCA supports is the Endowment Fund, a matching grants program managed by the Winnipeg Foundation to ensure a reliable and continuing source of income, enabling MCA to continue to keep Manitoba singing with a voice for every choir, and a choir for every voice.
from beginning to present
Bruce S. Thompson
Bruce S. Thompson