February of 1966, before a concert at St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kingston.
Since the University Choir was an official university-sponsored entity, it become part of the mind-boggling experience of freshie registration day in the Theatre-Auditorium – though it was relegated to the very end, right after the newbies had photos taken for their student-ID cards! A few senior student choir members acted as recruiters. The day in 1968 when I reached them, I recall they were enthusiastic, engaging and charming: qualities not often evident in the previous two hours of standing in line!
On the 1970 Concert Tour, we began at the Chapel of the Ursaline Convent of the Pines in Chatham (an hour’s drive from my hometown of Petrolia). We performed the Saint John Passion, but the tenor who sang the role of Judas had a bad cold and was disappointed at his almost croaky singing voice. Afterwards, a nun complimented him on his solo: “Judas was a very weak man,” she observed. “You captured his demeanor very well!” We all need encouragement like that, huh?
My parents attended the concert; and, before the bus pulled away from the convent, my Dad came on board with a huge bag of fresh apples. What a treat for all of us!
In 1969, the Concert Tour itinerary included a performance at what would be called a ‘sister’ college of Waterloo Lutheran University – Susquehannah University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Less than a 2-hour drive away, Gettysburg College, near the historic battlefield and site of President Lincoln’s famous address, was a another stop. There, one of the college’s History professors gave us a short tour of the battle site. As part of a small-farm family, I had never had a chance to travel far-afield; so, experiencing this part of history; and, later that week, Montreal, was thrilling! I’ll never forget it.
The fact that the choristers doubled as furniture movers for risers and boxes of choir gowns, created more of the bonding and likely broken nails! Exercises in humility do contribute to one's character, don't you think?
At our first rehearsal as the WLU Alumni Choir, I made a little speech describing how it felt to be part of such wonderful music-making. I acknowledged that many of the younger grads might consider our 1960s cohort as, perhaps, out-of-touch/old! So, naming such as ‘fake news’, I declared: “Maybe you think we of the 70s (age or grad dates!) are eager to caucus and share the results of our most recent colonoscopies – but that’s not the case! With you in our midst, we re-discover why choral singing is so important to who we all are.” With millennial grads and intramurals around and with us, there is a wondrous harmony and spirit – greater than either group alone. I admire their strong voices as we blend in with those whose academic focus is music, even as I hope they discover the experiences we bring from years not only at Laurier, but in continent-and-worldwide travels that have taken us to places that gave birth to stellar musicians and soloists, choruses and actors who are living their dreams now.
Carolyn McBean (BA ’72)
The photo from the back cover of a Christmas album recorded on March 22, 1969.
1968 Boar's Head Dinner held in the Theatre-Auditorium. The choir processed the Boar’s Head in, members of the football team served the student body (competing on speed) and a great time was had by all. The record-setting team served hundreds of dinners in under 10 minutes – sometimes getting more food on the floor and on shirts than on plates.
What wonderful memories. We explored some great and varied music from the universally-recognized masters to specially commissioned “world premieres.” We sang Bizet’s Carmen with the great Maureen Forrester. That wonderful Canadian music icon was outstanding, even taking time away from the post-opera gala party to spend a few moments hanging out with the choir (and yes, Rob, beer on the stairway!).
A half-time feature of our travelling concerts was a Barbershop Quartet. Rob might remember the Arnprior performance where “the lady in the green dress” took one look at the four of us in our skimmer hats and striped shirts and laughed so hard we could barely control ourselves to sing.
Some music we loved, others perhaps more avante-garde (in those days), not so much. I remember Walter announcing the lineup for one particular concert which included a tonal cloud piece many (most!) did not want to sing. The collective groan from the road-weary choir in response to his pre-concert announcement did not sit well with him. So he declared it would not be sung, and then offered an impromptu lecture to the crowd in tonal music, making us sing a few opening notes of the piece for quite some time while not allowing us to complete it. He had made his point! That was the last time anyone dared to offer comment on the concert music selection list.
It may have been that same tour that Walter’s tuxedo cummerbund went flying off his body mid-conducting and into the soprano row!
The point is, of course, that Walter gave us a wide look at the universality of music. Many of us owe a great deal to him. Barrie Cabena, Jan Overduin, Victor Martens and others laid the foundation for the impressive Faculty of Music Laurier now boasts. Concert Tours designed to promote WLU took us to small towns and large cities in southern Ontario and a variety of places in the northern United States. Carrying the coffins (large boxes containing our 90 choir robes) off the bus, performances in university and church settings, visiting new places, all the while binding us in a common love for music. Some of our group went on to have brilliant national and international careers, others of us to lives where music still plays a major role.
Phil Poole (BA ’74)
A number of choir members played on the powder puff team. The game was played the Saturday morning of the Winter Carnival with on-campus versus off-campus. Members of the Golden Hawks volunteered to coach.
Photo credit for action shots: Barry Lyons.
Many of our choir members enjoyed Thursday evening at the Heidelberg House. The first time we decided to do something extracurricular, we decided to go ice-skating down on Silver Lake in Waterloo Park. Those were back in the days when the women's residence was pretty tightly controlled as to access and exit. All pretty strict hours that the gals that were living in residence could adhere to. But we were able to negotiate with the lady that was looking after the residence to sign up the girls that sang in the choir to go ice-skating. And so we did that. And probably the same winter, when we decided that we would set something up at the Heidelberg House, probably for the balance of the winter year, we might go skating for an hour and then go to the Heidelberg, and then probably after a while, the girls would still sign out with their skates and we'd just head out to the Heidelberg, if the weather was less nice.
The primary entertainment that we had out at the Heidelberg was Keith Knights, a little older than the rest us, marvelous voice, great sense of humour, he played by ear. He’d be sitting at the honkytonk piano, playing Tom Jones, or making songs up, we'd all sing along, and that carried on for years, and even when we started to get back together again, in 2001, albeit without Keith, we would often include the Heidelberg House as part of Homecoming Weekend.
Bruce Armstrong (BBA ’72)
Itinerary of the 1970 Concert Tour CLICK TO VIEW
The back page of the 1970 Concert Tour program CLICK TO VIEW
Concert Tour schedule CLICK TO VIEW
A letter of thanks from St. Monica House. This letter thanked the Quartet members (of which I was proud to be a member) and Keith Knights for doing community outreach work. Not unlike what others in our choir did from time-to-time. – Bruce Armstrong CLICK TO VIEW