In 1966, at the invitation of the Canadian Centennial Commission, the late Nicholas Goldschmidt pulled together members of existing Ottawa choirs to help celebrate Canada’s Centennial; thus the Canadian Centennial Choir was born. The first assignment of the new 200-voice choir was to sing O Canada on Parliament Hill at midnight on December 31, 1966, and again on the same date in 1967 to bookend centennial music celebrations in the capital. The Canadian Centennial Choir sang at the official opening of the National Arts Centre in 1969 and returned in 1970 to perform the Canadian premiere of Beethoven’s only oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, one of several concerts to be broadcast on CBC Radio.
The Choir has acquired a reputation for versatility, performing a repertoire that stretches from the choral masterworks of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Fauré and Britten to popular folk songs and traditional carols from around the world. The Canadian Centennial Choir also meets the challenge presented by contemporary Canadian composers such as Srul Irving Glick and Derek Holman. In recent seasons the choir has showcased works by local composers: we have commissioned and premiered works by Patrick Cardy, Peter Churchill, Michael Bussière, Nicholas Piper and Laura Hawley, as well as Earth Song by Jan Järvlepp. Commissions have also been awarded to Eleanor Daley, Patrick Wedd, Pamela Houston and James Caswell.
Our more memorable concerts include:
- A performance of the Berlioz Requiem under the direction of Brian Law, as part of the concert celebrating the Ottawa Choral Society’s 50th anniversary.
- A joint concert with the Elmer Iseler Singers and the St. Lambert Choral Society under the direction of the late Elmer Iseler.
- A concert of Hebrew music sung with cantor Stephen Chaiet, performed in a synagogue. This was an incredibly moving experience for many audience members, hearing music from their childhood – music that had almost been obliterated.
- A performance of Amazing Grace in Dominion-Chalmers United Church. The soprano voices sang the first verse a cappella; the rest of the choir joined in with harmonies in the second verse; the third verse added the spine-tingling power of the organ; and finally in the fourth verse, out of the dimness of the loft, we were joined by a Scottish pipe band. The church fairly shook!
- Our inaugural We Introduce concert, directed by Robert Hall and featuring special guest Ben Heppner, starting a CCC tradition of supporting promising new artists.
- An all-Mozart concert at Église Sacré-Cœur in Gatineau (Hull), featuring Litaniae de Beata Maria Virginae, Ave Verum Corpus and Vesperae Solennes de Confessore.
- A concert of Broadway favourites where we were joined by the Treble Chorus from Canterbury High School and a lively jazz quartet featuring Rob Fahie (son of soprano Carol Fahie).
- Our 50th anniversary concert in May 2017, featuring an all-Canadian program, including the world premiere of In Song by Ottawa composer Laura Hawley (a CCC commission).
The Canadian Centennial Choir offers audiences an entertaining and eclectic mix of choral music in concerts that feature pieces by new composers as well as beloved masterworks, with a special focus on Canadian composers, and featuring performances by local musicians and soloists.