Unisong Choral Festival Celebrates 20 Years

Creating Canadian Unity Through Song

Early in 1995, while reading a newspaper article about calls for a referendum for Quebec to separate from the rest of Canada, Donald and Lois Harper decided that something had to be done at the “everyman” level to help Canadians from coast to coast understand that despite geographic, linguistic, and cultural differences, we all have a common ground. We share many common interests and concerns, and would be stronger united as one Canada rather than separating into opposing political entities. Lois had a background in teaching music and conducting, Donald had a background in business. Both were currently working in the travel industry and had a passion for music festivals. Et voila an idea suddenly occurred to them – the creation of a national choral festival, to take place in Canada’s capital city annually, with the main concert to be held on Canada Day for additional emphasis on Canadian unity – and Unisong (an acronym of “united in song”) was born.

From its beginning, Unisong has changed so much and hardly changed at all. It is still a national festival, held in the country’s capital city, with a focus on creating unity and encouraging choral networking and friendships amongst choirs which would never have otherwise ever met one another; the focus is still on a cross-section of Canadian repertoire and programming, providing both a taste of the old and familiar and a taste of the new and exciting; and the goal is still to obtain representation from as many Canadian provinces and territories every year as possible so that participants can see and experience that those of us from one end of the country, the north or central areas, or the other coast really are very much the same inside.

In other ways the festival has changed a lot, now including adult and auditioned choirs to include the male voices and enlarge the scope of repertoire available to perform; the festival has formed a long-term partnership with the National Arts Centre for the presentation of our Canada Day concerts to add an extra dash of importance and flair in addition to the larger numbers of participants; and the festival has expanded its creative team to include a number of creative choral artists in the planning for each coming year.

2016 will mark 20 proud years of Unisong in Ottawa, and we are pleased to announce that we are looking forward to both new and previous attendees participating in the 2016 festival, which will be conducted by a favourite former Unisong conductor, Robert Cooper, and the festival’s Artistic Director Emeritus, Barbara Clark.

Unisong welcomes you to share your stories and photos of your experiences at the festival throughout the course of its history by emailing them to info@unisong.ca as we would like to build on them and include a number of them in the yearbook of our 2016 event.