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Choral group marks 50 years with a special performance

The Waterloo County Teachers’ Choir rehearses at St. George’s Forest Hill Anglican Church in Kitchener. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

The Waterloo County Teachers’ Choir is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special performance called Thank You for the Music, with a portion of the proceeds going back to support music education in the community.

A 100-voice choir will sing a variety of music, including pop, medleys, classical from Bach and Mozart, folk, African, and Indigenous pieces that aim to give voice to social issues and community roots.

The group’s Jan Hember promised to provide a stellar performance.

“Our opening number is going to be quite spectacular, and our finale number will raise the roof,” said Hember with a laugh.

For more than a decade, a portion of proceeds from performances has gone towards different charities. Strong Start, a Kitchener-based charity dedicated to improving children’s literacy skills, benefitted from a previous performance, for instance.

This year, the group is trying something different: a portion of the proceeds will go to an initiative spearheaded by the group itself, Music in Schools – Keep It Alive.

“Schools from both [boards], and both elementary and high schools can apply for a small grant to help them enhance their music programming, whatever way they have a need for,” explained Hember of the new program. “They may need to purchase instruments like ukuleles in elementary school, or guitars in high school. Or they might want to take their third-graders to the orchestra at the Centre in the Square where they have a special program for students.”

Any school can apply for a grant. However, Hember predicts it will have enough to fund about four schools for the year. To keep things even, the WCTC will select one school from across each category – one elementary school from the Catholic school board, one elementary school from the public board, one high school from the Catholic board, and another high school from the public board.

“We have found that schools can’t really afford to have this enhancement, yet as teachers, we have always found it to be a really valuable experience to have these musicians come in and do a program specifically designed for the age group,” said Hember. “So we decided that from now on our charity will go towards supporting schools.”

Joining the group will be accompanist Susan Pries, several additional instrumentalists, past choir directors and accompanists, and 60 alumni who will be a part of a massed choir in the final celebration numbers.

Members come from all across the region and even beyond. Area members include Susan Pries, the accompanist, who owns Riversong bakery and café at Three Bridges, Jane Schultz of Wellesley, Carol Fay, a soprano from Breslau, Don Upper from Conestogo, Terry Janzen, a bass singer from Wellesley, and Mary Brough of Elmira. Participants also hail from New Hamburg, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Stratford.

“To live is to sing for me. Music is soul food, and it gives me great joy,” said Breslau WCTC member of 30 years, Carol Fay, noting the physical and mental benefits that the activity provides her.

“It also gives me emotional well-being. If you’re having a hard day and you go and sing, it just gives your spirit a real lift. It’s also a social get-together, of course – when you’re singing in harmony, there’s a sense of unity there, which is very powerful.”

When the choir began in 1969, it was a wellness activity for teachers of the Waterloo County School Board, as it was known at the time. While the school board name has changed, the choir title has stayed the same.

Over the past half century, the group has grown to include educators from all across the board and is open to anyone interested.

“You don’t have to be part of the WRDSB or Catholic board; members can be from university, or college, such as Conestoga College,” said Hember. “All educators of any kind, plus their family and friends. So in real terms, we are a community choir, not just a teachers’ choir.

“But we’ve kept our name because the majority of us are still either retired teachers or practicing teachers. But anybody who loves music can join us.”

The WCTC will have a busy month filled with performances: the group has also been invited to be the guest choir in this year’s Kodály Music Festival in the Waterloo Region District School Board. More than 1,000 children will be performing in the festival to celebrate its 28th year at the Centre In The Square on May 7 and 8.

The anniversary performance will take place at Grandview Church, 250 Old Chicopee Dr., Kitchener on May 14 starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, available by e-mail at wt-choir@rogers.com or by calling Hember at 519-745-1375.

1 comment
  1. An excellent review Thanks for taking an interest in the choir. It’s my second year in the choir

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