Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir/Grand Philharmonic Choir

Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir (Grand Philharmonic Choir, beginning 2006). Amateur symphonic choir of more than 100 voices, founded in 1883 as the Berlin Philharmonic and Orchestral Society.

Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir/Grand Philharmonic Choir

Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir (Grand Philharmonic Choir, beginning 2006). Amateur symphonic choir of more than 100 voices, founded in 1883 as the Berlin Philharmonic and Orchestral Society. Following a period of inactivity, the choir was re-instituted by the Kitchener Music Club in 1922 under the name Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir as part of a plan to enrich choral training in the community and in public schools. In addition to the main adult choir, a family of chamber, youth, and children's choirs were formed 1985-7.


The Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir was directed 1922-8 by J.L. Yule and 1928-41 by Harry Hill, both of whom were supervisors of school music programs. The repertoire comprised standard partsongs but also included Alfred Gaul's cantata Joan of Arc, performed in 1927. Under the direction 1941-60 of Glenn Kruspe, the choir became the principal oratorio ensemble of the region, performing Bach's St Matthew Passion and Mendelssohn's Elijah, and engaging soloists Lois Marshall, James Milligan, and Jon Vickers. It developed a permanent accompanying orchestra (the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra) in 1944, and performed 1950s-60s at the Kitchener Memorial and Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate auditoriums. The choir was directed 1960-2 by Frédéric Pohl and 1962-6 by Donald Landry, during which time it introduced works by Britten, Schoenberg, and R. Murray Schafer. Walter H. Kemp became the choir's director in 1966 and was succeeded in 1972 by conductor and CBC radio host Howard Dyck.


Under Dyck's leadership, the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir has maintained its community base and amateur status, but has developed significantly in size, skill, and reputation. Since 1972 the main adult choir has gradually expanded to 140 members, with additional voices supplied on occasion by the subsidiary Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Chamber Singers, Youth Choir, and Children's Choir (directed in 2007 by Dyck, Nancy Tanguay, Robert Wilkie, and Susan Watt, respectively). Accompanied by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the main choir began performing at the Centre in the Square in 1980, and in addition to joint performances with its smaller ensembles, has presented an annual subscription series of four concerts. Beginning in the late 1980s, the 20- to 30-voice chamber choir, and the 60-voice youth choir and children's choir, have also offered individual series averaging two to three concerts.

The repertoire for the adult choir has largely been composed of standard works such as Bach's Mass in B Minor and St Matthew Passion, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Orff's Carmina Burana, and the requiems by Mozart, Verdi, and Brahms. Additionally, it has commissioned and premiered works by Canadians Glenn Buhr, Barrie Cabena, Leonard Enns, and Imant Raminsh, and performed others by Howard Cable, Srul Irving Glick, Healey Willan, and Christos Hatzis. In 1998 the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Singers premiered Alfred Kunz's Contemplation.

The adult choir has performed at Roy Thomson Hall (Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings Symphony, 2005) and Massey Hall, and has toured Europe on several occasions. It visited Germany on its first tour in 1995, and sang at the Salzburg Cathedral and the Schwäbisch Gmünd European Church Music Festival. In 2002 the choir participated in the Toronto International Choral Festival, where it performed the Canadian premiere of Franz Schmidt's Das Buch mit sieben Siegln (The Book with Seven Seals) alongside vocalists Ben Heppner, Gary Relyea, Measha Brueggergosman, Benjamin Butterfield, and Susan Platts. The choir has also engaged soloists Catherine Robbin, Russell Braun, Michael Schade, Daniel Lichti, Kevin McMillan, and Suzie LeBlanc.

Highlight performances for the chamber choir have included collaborations with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Renaissance Singers, the Guelph Chamber Choir, and the Menno Singers, and appearances at the Elora and Kitchener-Waterloo Open Ears festivals. Of the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic choirs, the Youth Choir has been particularly successful, gaining national recognition as a finalist (2004) and winner (2006) in the CBC Radio National Competition for Amateur Choirs. Under Nancy Tanguay's directorship (beginning 1997), the choir has performed at England's Shrewsbury International Festival (2001) and Germany's Internationales Jugendmusik Festival (2003), and in 2005 competed for the first time at the Festival Internacional de Musica, Spain.

In 2006 the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir celebrated its 85th anniversary, and to mark its growth in constituency and membership was renamed the Grand Philharmonic Choir.

Further Reading

  • "Children's choir auditions slated. . . ," Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 5 Oct 1987

    "K-W Philharmonic choir performs in Salzburg," Elmira Independent, 8 May 1995

    Crandall, Deborah. "75 years of excellence," Waterloo Chronicle, 12 Jun 1996

    Everett-Green, Robert. "Choral festival: a divine revelation. . . ," Globe and Mail, 22 Jun 2002

    "Choir celebrates history with name change," Waterloo Chronicle, 21 Jun 2006