University of Alberta Mixed Chorus
"Our memories will live forever!" Most of us have sung those words hundreds of times in Eaton's arrangement of the University of Alberta Cheer Song—and how true they are! For nearly 60 years, thousands of University of Alberta students have "majored" in Mixed Chorus, and in the process have garnered memories (not all musical by any means!) and made cherished and lasting friendships. For six decades the UAMC has immeasurably enriched the lives of its members and its audiences, and from the very beginning has been acknowledged as one of the University of Alberta's most effective ambassadors.
Original: Alumni Chapters
The University of Alberta Mixed Chorus (UAMC) is among the oldest non-sport organizations on campus, tracing its beginning to 1939 when a small choir was formed under the direction of Ottoman Cypress to supply music for Student Christian Movement services. In 1943, the Varsity Choir applied for membership to the Literary Association of the Students' Union, allowing the choir to apply for Students' Union funding to purchase music for the expanding choir. Rehearsals and practices for the choir were organized for the fall of 1944 under the leadership of Gordon F. Clark, a first-year medical student. The first concert was presented in Convocation Hall on campus in February 1945, and was well received and reviewed. The repertoire of short classical pieces and traditional folk songs prompted a name change and in 1945, the organization became officially known as the University of Alberta Mixed Chorus.
Under Professor Richard Eaton's leadership, which lasted 20 years, the Chorus increased in size and accomplishment. A New Trail article published in 1983 explained:
The music becomes more challenging and diversified, the reviews more numerous and favorable as the Chorus expands the spring tours begun under Clark, moves into regular radio appearances and is asked to sing for special occasions, such as Princess Elizabeth's visit in 1951.
"Forty Years of Harmony", New Trail, Vol. 38, No. 3, Winter 1983
The Mixed Chorus spring tour started in 1947 to meet requests for the Chorus to appear in several Alberta cities and towns. The first tour, held between examination week and Convocation in May, saw a group of about 80 members travel through southern Alberta for nine days, giving a concert each night, and ending with a performance in Convocation Hall in Edmonton. Once the tour program was chosen, it remained constant with each community receiving the same program of choral music. The Chorus dressed in formal attire for the tours; women were in pastel evening gowns and men in dark suits and black bow ties. Chorus members travelled to the various communities by bus, and were billeted in private homes. The spring tour (or May Tour) became an important annual event for the Mixed Chorus. Over the intervening years, tours expanded to include visits to communities in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
Richard Eaton's sudden death while on sabbatical in 1968 was devastating to the Chorus members. James Whittle, a member of the Chorus and Assistant Conductor since 1964, took over as director of the Mixed Chorus after Professor Eaton's death. He conducted the Chorus in 1968, 1969, and 1971; Dr David Stocker, a professor in the Department of Music, led the Chorus during 1970. In 1971, Dr R.E. Stephens, Professor of Music Education at the University of Alberta, assumed the position of Conductor of UAMC, a post he held until 1986. His fifteen years with the Chorus were interrupted briefly by his sabbatical leave in 1979, when Merrill Flewelling conducted the Chorus. Robert de Frece, who sang in the Chorus from 1967 to 1971, took over as director of the UAMC from Ron Stephens in 1986 and is the present director.
In 1988, the Faculty of Education Handbell Ringers was established as a separate sub-group available to current members of the Mixed Chorus; the Handbell Ringers perform annually with the UAMC. The Mixed Chorus Alumni Association was established in 1991 to promote continuing contact among Mixed Chorus alumni and to support and promote the activities of the UAMC. An annual alumni dinner is held prior to the Mixed Chorus Spring Concert.
Members of the current University of Alberta Mixed Chorus represent almost every faculty and school on the U of A campus; auditions continue to be held each year during Registration Week, in September. The Chorus members rehearse four hours each week during the academic year, and sing annually at the University's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, and at the Lighting up the Legislature ceremony in Edmonton. Social activities are a constant in UAMC history, with steak and pig roasts, alumni nights, and innumerable parties a part of each season's activities. As Moira Day, a long-time member of the University of Alberta Mixed Chorus wrote:
If there is a single quality that makes the University of Alberta Mixed Chorus unique, it is a deep sense of continuing tradition and community a tradition that is as human as it is musical.
"Forty Years of Harmony"