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Greenwood Singers celebrate 30 years

It isn’t every day a choir celebrates three decades of spirited music making, churning out endearing melodies that weave a soul-piercing beauty.

It isn’t every day a choir celebrates three decades of spirited music making, churning out endearing melodies that weave a soul-piercing beauty.

This season Greenwood Singers salutes the landmark birthday at their traditional Many Moods of Christmas concert with the release of a new album, the 27-track Joy to the World: Music for Advent and Christmas.

The Alberta Faculty of Education Handbell Ringers and pianist Jared Samborski are featured guests at the Monday night concert held at the Winspear Centre.

In glancing back at the decades, founder and music director Robert de Frece recalls starting the group in his hometown of Sherwood Park with 22 singers. No one came up with a name until driving home one night he spotted a street sign that read Greenwood Way. “It was totally serendipitous,” he recalls.

After de Frece obtained a teaching position at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Education, rehearsals moved to the campus where the choir developed a higher profile.

Greenwood’s daring and eclectic repertoire — a seamless blend from Renaissance to Broadway — earned them spots performing with Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Alberta Baroque Ensemble and Alberta Ballet. But it was in 1992 after the ESO contracted Greenwood to sing backup for a reunion concert with Procol Harum that de Frece expanded the choir to 45 singers.

At times the choristers have even been asked to heighten their style such as at the Canadian Country Music Awards. They were charged with singing a country gospel number Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Then music director Tommy Banks asked them to try to sound like a southern Baptist choir. “Some of the notes were so high he was they lucky they hit them,” laughs de Frece.

The past three decades’ successes are a result of hard work mixed with the adrenalin rush of exploring new works. Much of this is reflected in Many Moods of Christmas as the choir soars through a varied buffet of European classics and Renaissance motets to contemporary romantic ballads and modern carols.

Both the Greenwood Singers and the Handbell Ringers kick off the program with Kling Glöcken, a processional Christmas carol, followed by a Renaissance motet sung in Latin.

There are also four works by Healey Williams, the first Canadian choral composer to reach international status, and the lively Catalonian carol Fum, Fum, Fum performed exclusively by a handbell quartet.

“It’s always very entertaining for the audience. There are only four people and they have to keep changing places quickly to play 40 bells.”

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Many Moods of Christmas<br />Greenwood Singers with Alberta Faculty of Education Handbell Ringers and Jared Samborski<br />Monday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.<br />McDougall United Church<br />10025 - 101 St.<br />Tickets: $20 adults, $18 students/seniors Call 780-420-1757 or visit

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