Guelph Chamber Choir
concerts about recording
tickets news support contact
Guelph Chamber Choir


In 1979, Eleanor Ewing and Murdo MacKinnon called an informal meeting of a group of music enthusiasts to discuss forming a chamber choir in Guelph. At that meeting, the Guelph Chamber Music Society (GCMS) was formed, with a mandate to sponsor both a chamber choir and present professional chamber music concerts. With support from the Guelph Arts Council, the Society engaged Gerald Neufeld in the dual role of Artistic Director of the GCMS and Conductor of the Guelph Chamber Choir. Auditions were announced, and on Monday, September 15, 1980, the first rehearsal was held at St. George's School, with 27 singers. From the beginning, the choristers have come from many walks of life - teaching, medicine, business, and government, to name but a few.

On Sunday, December 7, 1980, the hard work of the founders, conductor and singers paid off when the choir presented its first concert at Harcourt United Church, titled "In Honour of Christmas." This was followed by a formal series of concerts, beginning with a varied programme including works by Heinrich Schütz, Brahms, and Kelsy Jones, on Friday, January 30, 1981 in Chalmers United Church.

Over the years, the Guelph Chamber Society changed its name to Musica Viva and focused its energy and resources on the Guelph Chamber Choir. The success of this strategy is evident in the awards won by the choir in the CBC Radio competitions for amateur choirs, its participation in major festivals including the Toronto International Festival, the Guelph Spring Festival, the Elora Festival, Festival Cantus Salzburgensis, and the Saugeen Bach Festival, its tours and its many memorable performances during regular concert series. A significant occasion was the GCC's performance of Carmina Burana at the opening of Guelph's River Run Centre in 1997 with other singers from the community. Musically, the presentation of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in 2009 attests to the maturity the ensemble has attained during the past 3 decades.

Many Canadian singers, who now enjoy major international careers, were engaged by the Guelph Chamber Choir as soloists for major works. They include Michael Schade, Ben Heppner, Kevin McMillan, Christina Szabó, Colin Ainsworth, John Tessier and Jennie Such.

The Guelph Chamber Choir has been proud to support the wider development of singing in the community through its initial sponsorship, with the Guelph Arts Council, of the Guelph Children Singers (now the Guelph Youth Singers), its Songfest initiatives with choirs in the community, and its augmented choir performances. In 2004, the Guelph Chamber Choir inaugurated an annual Young Composers Competition as a means of encouraging choral composition by young Canadian composers.

While Gerald Neufeld was away at graduate school for two seasons, GCC was fortunate to have Kathryn Laurin as its conductor. As well, the Guelph Chamber Choir has been very fortunate to have had very capable boards of directors, committed choral administrators, and dedicated accompanists, without whom we would not have been able to function.

As the main architect of the choir's fine reputation, and success in the community and elsewhere, Guelph has much to thank Gerald Neufeld for. Let us hope that under Gerald's continuing guidance we can, in the future, look forward to more creative and exciting adventures in programming.

And, not least of all, it is with extreme gratitude that we salute the members of our audience, as well as the government, corporate and individual sponsors, who have sustained us over the past three decades.

Many thanks to Eleanor Ewing, Sandy Middleton and members of the Board for their contributions to this brief history of the choir.