Tuning up for the sesquicentennial


Many church choirs are shrinking or falling silent, but you’d never know it from the power that the United Voices of Edmonton generates.

Nearly 50 voices will float to the rafters at Morinville United Church as the UVE celebrates Canada’s sesquicentennial with a five-stop tour throughout the capital region’s smaller rural communities.

The free concert takes place on Sunday, June 11.

United Voices are a blend of three choirs: Robertson-Wesley United Church, Knox-Metropolitan United and Willan Chorale.

Normally the choir veers away from popular songs preferring to promote classical music with staying power from the great masters such as Mozart, Bach, Faure or Lauridsen.

However, after receiving a $12,450 Canada 150 matching grant, the choir has rehearsed repertoire singing the praises of Canadian composers.

In a cloudburst of sweet sounds, UVE will raise their voices to salute composers ranging from Violet Archer, Eleanor Daley and Betty Radford to John Hooper, Warren Mack and Ian Tyson.

Anchoring the concert is Healey Willan’s Centennial Hymn. As the dean of Canadian composers who kept the cathedral tradition alive, Willan built music about our storied past.

“It’s so rich, so diverse. He knew how to write for the voice, for the organ. The harmonies are so lovely,” said Tammy-Jo Mortensen, co-conductor for UVE.

Other works include Peter Togni’s Prayer of St. Francis, Richard Eaton’s A la Claire Fontaine and Patricia Thomson’s Bluebells.

As a way of advancing the recommendations set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, UVE will also host Cree singer-songwriter Karen Donaldson Shepherd, formerly of The Crow Girls.

“She uses music as a form of healing and harmony – harmony in the choir and harmony within community,” Mortensen explained.

Shepherd’s four-song set includes her own original material as well as Métis singer-songwriter Laura Vinson’s Meegwich.

Kelly Paul, formerly of Alexander Reserve, will accompany Shepherd. He will play the Native American flute, an instrument similar to a recorder.

“It’s earthy. It’s haunting. It really moves me.”

The concert is free, however, donations to help offset costs are gratefully accepted.


United Voices of Edmonton
With special guest Karen Donaldson Shepherd
Sunday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Morinville United Church
9610 Morinville Dr.


About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.