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Residents celebrate Choralairs 50th anniversary

December 23, 2016

Barbara A. Martindale- For What It's Worth June 9th, 2014


The Choralairs had a strong and entertaining show on Sunday with some 53 voices to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Beautiful music surrounded the auditorium at McKinnon Park Secondary School, overflowing with well-wishers, Choralairs of the past, dignitaries and families.


The George Shippey family was in attendance. Daughter Kimberly Shippey extended congratulations on behalf of the family, saying they were pleased to see their father's legend continue.


Scrapbooks were on display, covering the choir's many performances internationally and at home. Two intermissions allowed the audience to chat and partake of refreshments. Short intervening periods during musical segments by individual choir members shared their history. Their choice of music also reflected the history.


Former choir conductor Geoff Bullivant, his wife Nancy and accompanist Kerry (Fearman) Williams took over the choir for three musical presentations.

Not many will remember 1969 when the Choralairs put on the HMS Pinafore musical operetta of Gilbert and Sullivan in February, a musical play entitled Riverboat during the civic holiday weekend at the Fairgrounds, cut their first album, In This Land We Sing and built a massive Christmas card for a community Christmas concert in December.


That 1969-year of activity continued into the 70s and 80s with appearances on stages in the USA, Wales, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver, as well as concerts at home.


The Haldimand Choralairs’ history, back 50 years ago to 1964, began with Margaret VanLoon and Agnes Small, under the musical direction of George Shippey and became known as the Choralairs. The Caledonia Men's Glee Club, also directed by George Shippey, joined the Choralairs. They held their first concert in 1967 at the Caledonia high school singing to an audience of 400 to 500 people.


George Shippey continued to lead the choir until his untimely death in 1994. Geoff Bullivant took over in 1996 and continued until 2010. Since then, Stillman Matheson has been the conductor with Svetlana Kopeleva as his assistant.


Their colourful uniforms for both men and women were on display for the 50th too. Long serving former choir member Aldonna Blackwell wore a very early uniform jacket to Sunday's event. R.L. Moore, another long serving former choir member, presented the choir with his own artist interpretation of the Choralairs’ history.


Known as the Choralairs for a number of years, and now as the Haldimand Choralairs, MP Diane Finlay and Mayor Ken Hewitt congratulated them as Ambassadors.


A truly enjoyable afternoon of music at its best was genuinely appreciated by the audience who showed, through hearty applause, their delight to be a part of the Haldimand Choralairs’ 50th year. Their motto has been "If you're too busy to sing, you're too busy."

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