Arion Male Voice Choir

Arion Male Voice Choir. Possibly Canada's oldest existing male choir devoted to the singing of secular music. It was founded in February 1893 (with initial, informal activities beginning in 1892) as the Arion Club of Victoria (BC) and gave its first concert 17 May 1893 at Institute Hall.

Arion Male Voice Choir

Arion Male Voice Choir. Possibly Canada's oldest existing male choir devoted to the singing of secular music. It was founded in February 1893 (with initial, informal activities beginning in 1892) as the Arion Club of Victoria (BC) and gave its first concert 17 May 1893 at Institute Hall. Following a fashion instigated in 1854 by the New York Arion Society (a German-American male choir), it was named for Arion, the poet-singer of ancient Greece, who symbolized good fortunes for travelling musicians. (Other 19th-century Canadian Arion Club choirs were located in Halifax, Hamilton, and London.) The choir's present name was adopted in 1948.

Early Years
In April 1894 the Arion Club participated in a production of The Mikado, and in June of the same year it presented its first open-air concert, an event repeated annually until the early 1930s. The choir's early repertoire included Rhenish, Norse, and American songs. In 1898 the Arions sang at the opening of the British Columbia legislative buildings in Victoria. By 1903 exchange visits with US choirs had begun. In 1905 the group joined several other choirs in a performance of Haydn's The Creation at Tacoma, Wash. In 1906, in a similar exchange held in Victoria, it took part in a birthday program honouring the US composer Dudley Buck. In May 1906 it joined other local choirs and two noted guests, Emma Albani and Éva Gauthier, in a performance of Frederick Cowen's The Rose Maiden.

Membership; Notable Performances

The group's membership has fluctuated between 23 and 60 and has included many notable personalities, including Sir Matthew Begbie, Ira Dilworth, Beverly Fyfe and Herbert Kent, the club historian.

The Arion Male Voice Choir has sung before visiting royalty, government officials, and departing and returning armed forces. It also has performed at boating concerts and the famous Swiftsure Sailing Races. It was, in effect, Victoria's ceremonial choir. In its early days it gave benefit concerts for families bereaved by sea disasters. In 1973 the choir toured Scotland, northern England, and Wales, where it was well-received for its performance of Newfoundland sea shanties at the Llangollen Eisteddfod. In Victoria it has sung frequently at Christ Church Cathedral (which was designed by J.C.M. Keith, a choir member), at the McPherson Theatre, and at outdoor park concerts. In most years, the choir makes performance trips to locations on Vancouver Island, including Duncan, Comox, Qualicum Beach, and Port Alberni, and in 1999 it also made a more extensive trip to Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley, and the Kootenays. In 1998 the choir performed at the 100th anniversary of the BC legislature buildings, as it had at their opening in 1898.

Conductors

Herbert Kent was conductor 1912-29 and sang regularly with the Arions 1893-1955. Other conductors have been William Greig, E. Howard Russell, Frank Sehl, Stanley Bulley, W.C. Fyfe, Philip Hughes, B.C. Bracewell, Eric Hulatt (concurrently with) Frank Tupman, Graham Steed, Peter Copeland, Art Lewis, Harry Dutton, Bert Storar, Anthony Nicholas, Harold Treloar, Don Turner, John McVie, and Laurie Walker (2002- ).

Conducting appointments were informal. The men have filled in as needed in the face of war service, weather, and commuting between Victoria and the University of British Columbia. A complete chronological list of conductors was published in History of Music in British Columbia.


Further Reading

  • Provincial Archives of British Columbia. Arion Club records

    "Arion Club attains hundredth recital," Daily Colonist, 30 Nov 1930

    Lower, Thelma Reid. "Musical flashback: the Arion Male-Voice Choir, Victoria, (1892- ), the oldest choir in Canada," Playboard, vol 12, Sep 1977

    McIntosh, Robert Dale. Documentary History of Music in Victoria, British Columbia: Volume I 1850-1899 (Victoria, BC, 1981)

    Lower, Thelma Reid. "The Arion Male Voice Choir - a retrospect," paper given at Pacific Northwest History Conference, Bellingham, Washington, May 1984

    McIntosh, Robert Dale. History of Music in British Columbia 1850-1950 (Victoria, BC, 1989)

    - One Hundred Years of Singing: the Arion Male Voice Choir of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: 1892-1992 (Victoria 1992)

    Lower, Thelma Reid. "The Arion Connection." German-Canadian Yearbook, vol. 13, Toronto, 1994

    "Arion Choir's been harmonizing 100 years," Times-Colonist, 10 May 1992

    "Still singing after all these years," Times-Colonist, 5 Feb 2006