Returning on a high note this year, a local choir group is ready to share Canadian music and talent.
The Cambridge Girls’ Choir is an all-girls group made up of members ages eight to 18. It is part of programming offered at Fiddlesticks Community Centre, located on 71 Cowan Blvd. More information about the group can be found at cambridgegirlschoir.ca.
Jessica Strub is the director for the Cambridge Girls’ Choir. She said the choir will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, after being unable to gather for two years.
“It’s been a really interesting growth period for the girls choir, especially over the last decade,” said Strub. "We're hoping to have a huge concert in the spring, and we're hoping to have some choir alumni join us, and we're hoping to have the past choir directors join us."
Started in 1981, the first choir director, H.N. Shartun, and his wife formed the group with a focus on religious music. Sturb said after Shartun, Peter West took over as choir director and focused on contemporary music, specifically choral music. In 2018, Strub was selected as the first female director. Strub said she is honoured to hold the position and that female conductors are on the rise in the industry.
“It's not that male directors can't direct a girl's or women's choir, but I feel I can relate to them a little more,” said Strub, who grew up performing in many choir groups and is now a full-time piano teacher who accompanies as a volunteer at Preston High School.
“I feel especially now, in the music world at large, female conductors are few and far between, and we're just starting to really come out into the spotlight a little bit, and I feel like I'm just helping with that.”
Strub adds the group moved away from religious music to be more inclusive. Currently, it has commissioned 16 works from Canadian composers, which the group performs at local events, or national and international events every two years.
“A lot of people don’t recognize Canadian composers, and I think it’s important that we do so, because there’s a lot of great Canadian talent that goes unnoticed compared to American and European composers,” said Strub.
“When we travel, we do like to make sure we perform a few Canadian pieces so that we’re taking our local talent elsewhere in the world and we’re exposing other people to it, and that’s the biggest reason we call ourselves the ‘Canadian Ambassadors’ is because we want to make sure we’re spreading that talent.”
Besides highlighting Canadian music, Strub notes they incorporate world music, sometimes in a different language. Strub noted she tries to do something different so the choir can learn something new.
"We're gonna attempt some German at Christmas and we've done a couple pieces in Swahili and we've done a lot of different cultural pieces, and they (the choir) have always enjoyed them," said Strub.
As the director of the group, Strub said she hopes to commission and feature more work by female Canadian composers. She notes there are really great composers, including from places like London, Ontario.
“I want to emphasize those composers, because I feel it’s really important that we recognize local talent, and that the girls realize that you don't have to be this European heavyweight composure to be good,” she said.
Like sports, Strub notes the Cambridge Girls' Choir helps members develop leadership skills, teamwork and creates a sense of community.
"I think its a safe space to be able to do that, and we provide a fun space for them to just be together and music is an interesting thing because it's a lot of work and there's nothing so connecting quite like music," she said.
“We still work hard, we consider ourselves a team, but the goal is not winning, it's just creating."
Charleigh Perry is one member of the Cambridge Girls' Choir and takes on leadership roles within the group. Perry said she joined the choir at the age of eight under the guidance of the Drayton Theatre.
"They recommended that singing in a choir would help me with musical theatre as you would learn to sing in a group setting," said Perry.
Today, Perry and her sisters are some of the oldest members of the group and will be appearing in the Penny & Pound production, Miss Scrooge, in December. Perry will also be in Penny & Pound production of Grease this fall.
“She’s grown in her confidence in her singing and I am able to give her more challenging lines and she takes them on, and she helps her section and guides them through, and her sister are now in the choir, and it’s so nice to see her working with her younger sisters," said Strub about Perry.
"We hope to inspire some of the younger girls to be part of this amazing group," said Perry about the example she and her sisters hope to set in the choir.
"The music and songs are quite young and fun, and not boring and super traditional like you might think of when you hear the word 'choir.' We would also look to have the older girls join as well, like tweens and teens who love singing, would also be welcomed into our group. It would have a nice balance of younger girls and some older girls, and we hope through practice, to make beautiful music together."
The Cambridge Girls’ Choir is accepting new members for their fall program, which begins in September. Members will meet once a week on Mondays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.