WLU Alumni Choir Timeline: Part Three

Home Concert 1970

Every Concert Tour concluded with a Home Concert which was held on campus in the Theatre-Auditorium. In 1970, the Artist-in-Residence in the Department of Music was acclaimed soprano Carrol Anne Curry. She is pictured above singing “Lida Rose” from The Music Man along with members of the choir’s Quartet. The boater hats they are wearing came from The Father’s Moustache pub in Montreal. Montreal was the last stop of the tour, and choristers enjoyed some time at the pub before boarding the bus, late at night, for the long ride back to Waterloo.

A group of approximately 20 young people at a train station. It has a sign that says Valparaiso.

The boxes (also jokingly referred to as “the coffins” ) used to transport the choir gowns. The choir did all its own loading and unloading of equipment.

Approximately 20 young people in front of a small train station, with a sign that says "Valparaiso".

Train station, Valparaiso, Indiana, 1970.

A group of young people standing on and beside a church sign and smiling.

Standing on top of the church sign in Pittsburg during the Concert Tour of 1972.

An orchestra and choir with a conductor in the centre.

Carmen 1972, featuring the University Choir with the KW Symphony Orchestra and Maureen Forrester. Photo credit: Rob Asselstine.

"The choirs… were excited to be asked to be part of this two-performance gig, but were crestfallen to discover that the opening night reception for artists (including orchestra members) and patrons was not open to the 80 or so in the student choir. We channeled our disenchantment with such seeming elitism into planning our own party to follow the next evening's performance. Most of us jammed into a small house on the rim of WLU and were having a fine time when the doorbell rang and there [with Walter Kemp and Raffi Armenian] was the star, Maureen Forrester! She was dressed in a silver lamé pantsuit and wore a mink coat; and, as these party-crashers entered to cheers, one of the choristers hollered, "Hey, Carmen, how about a beer!" She accepted immediately and joined in the fun. I suspect our WLU prof and another prof, Victor Martens (who, several inches shorter than Ms. Forrester, had sung with her the love scenes as Don Jose) issued the invitation, but I'm sure she didn't need much persuading – and my memory of this grand lady, seated with several others in the stairwell, hoisting a beer and visiting with the gang, will always remain vivid."

–From an article by Carolyn McBean in the Globe and Mail, June 25, 2010.

"It was my party at my house – 19 Bricker Street. It was 1972 and I was in first year. I stood in my kitchen and shared an open bottle of wine with Maureen, Raffi and Walter. I didn't know any better – I invited everyone – and they all came!"

–Rob Asselstine

A graduation picture of a young man.

Keith Knights' grad picture. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern Studies in 1970.

WLU Alumni Choir's First Concert, 2002

In September of 2002, I became aware that former choir members from my era, and a bit later, were getting together to reminisce about our experiences back then and do some singing together to see if we were still good enough for public consumption. Having lost my husband to cancer in July of that year, I was looking for feel-good connections and old friends, so I travelled to Waterloo to see who else would show up. And here we are in 2021, still together, making music and doing some good things for the university we love at the same time.

As is true for the others, choir was a big part of my extracurricular life at WLU, and a great source of friends and fun. My favourite memory from that time was singing in the marvellous Marie Reine du Monde cathedral in Montreal during our Centennial Tour in 1967 ... as a token of friendship ... what a magnificent experience!

Eileen Mercier (BA '68, Hon LLD '13)

A poster with text including "Requiem by Gabriel Faure"

In 2004, almost 100 former University Choir members gathered for a weekend of rehearsing and reminiscing, culminating in a performance and recording of the wonderful Requiem composed by Gabriel Faure.

A choir standing in the choir section of a church, with a man at the centre. Choir members are wearing black and white.

2004 Homecoming church service.

Since its inception, the WLU Alumni Choir has shown itself to be a 5-star asset in the "treasury" of the WLU Faculty of Music. Not only has it provided direct financial assistance to a host of deserving singers, it has contributed significantly to the current building project [Making Space for Music], which will enhance the lives of all music students. I'm proud to be a founding member of this intentional and ever-expanding community of singing alumni!

Daniel Lichti, Associate Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Music, Laurier

A group of about 15 people singing on a football field.

In 2005, singing back up to Rosalind Pickett as she sang the national anthem. Rosalind sang the national anthem at the Homecoming football game for many years. 

A group posed near a football field wearing white, purple and yellow jerseys. A man and woman walking together wearing white, purple and yellow jerseys.

In 2006, the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association President Rob Asseltine provided jerseys to WLU Alumni Choir members.

Six people wearing formal wear posed in front of a curtain.

In 2006, the University Choir presented Mozart's Requiem in celebration of his 200th birthday. Members of the WLU Alumni Choir were invited to join in.

“Laurier’s fight song: a musical mystery”

By Mallory O’Brien (BA '08, MA '15), from Laurier Campus Winter 2009

It’s a rallying tune that echoes of school pride, history and tradition – it’s the university fight song. A popular way to excite the crowd at sporting events, football in particular, a fight song joins fans together in verse to cheer for the home team.

Many people might not know that Laurier has such a song, and it dates back at least 70 years.

Laurier’s fight song first appeared during the university’s Waterloo College years, which date from 1925 to 1960, but the song faded from memory when the institution became Waterloo Lutheran University, and then Wilfrid Laurier University in 1973.

When alumni choir member Rob Asselstine (BMus ’76) inquired in 2005 whether the university had an official school song, no one had an immediate answer.

“I was told to ask Fred Nichols, who was dean of students when I attended Laurier because ‘Fred knows everything,’’” says Asselstine.

But even Nichols didn’t know. Intrigued by the mystery, he decided to do some research in the archives.

After some searching with help from library staff, Nichols found sheet music titled “Waterloo We’ll Praise Thee Ever,” composed by M.A. Magee with words by W.H. Johns. More research led to a 1938 yearbook, which contained information about a professor named Walter H. Johns, and a photo of one Maxwell Magee.

W.H. Johns was a professor at Waterloo College for four years, and went on to become the president of the University of Alberta in 1959. He passed away in 1985. The story of Maxwell Magee (BA ’38) remains unknown.

With sheet music unearthed, a group from the alumni choir updated the lyrics with “Laurier” replacing “Waterloo.” Asselstine says this was an easy task, since Laurier contains the same number of syllables as Waterloo and only two lines had to be changed to keep the rhyme. Asselstine then arranged the song into a four-part harmony and the updated version was performed for the first time at the 2005 Homecoming football game.

“It’s an integral piece of our history and spans three cycles of the university,” says Kathy Mauer “BA ’72), an alumni choir member. “It’s a thread that connects almost 100 years.”

Mauer, along with Asselstine and other Laurier alumni choir members, performed the song for the Class of 1958’s 50-year reunion at last year’s Homecoming. Mauer says everyone remembered the song and sang along, “mind you, to Waterloo.”

With Laurier’s fight song revived, Asselstine says it is something that can unite students and alumni for years to come.

“I feel strongly that there should be a bedrock layer to an institution,” says Asselstine. “Something that doesn’t change, something that a graduate from 1938 and 2009 can have in common.”