From Pop to Opera and Back
In 1977, the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir (COMC) was founded in Hamilton by Lyn Harry, a Welshman who settled in Canada. The Welsh tradition of male-voice choirs was highly popular then, and for about 15 years the COMC was in top form, with some 90 proud Canadians producing CD recordings and going on international concert tours.
Things started to change in the mid-1990s, and, for health reasons, it grew increasingly challenging for Harry to continue conducting. Then, when he retired from COMC, a handful of choristers also packed it in. The COMC, by then a registered charitable organization, carried on, no longer singing in Welsh. It wasn’t easy to recruit new tenor, baritone, and bass members, but the "men who love to sing" shared a deep camaraderie that kept them, and their audiences, coming back. From encouraging musicianship among men, to supporting civic pride, to performing at charitable fundraisers, their passion for music and entertaining continues to provide a compelling raison d'être.
Today, the music scene of southwestern Ontario is diverse and, despite the demise of Opera Hamilton, there are many eclectic music buffs. So, the COMC is planning a very special 39th Annual Concert. On June 11 at 7pm, the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir will share the main stage at Hamilton's Dofasco Centre for The Arts (Theatre Aquarius) with internationally renowned Canadian operatic tenor, Richard Margison, and his daughter, Lauren Margison, a versatile soprano and rising star in her own right.
The Master of Ceremonies, Robert Missen, was recently inducted into Burlington Performing Arts Centre's Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of Gordie Tapp and Stuart Laughton. Hamilton-born Missen has been involved as a professional in the performing arts for over forty years, as a singer, agent, artists manager, producer and promoter. A former member of the Elmer Iseler Singers, Canadian Opera Company and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, he was a Founding Member of Tapestry Singers, now Tapestry Opera. He has worked with such distinguished Canadian artists as Maureen Forrester, Veronica Tennant, Michael Burgess, Stuart McLean, and The Men of the Deeps (the Cape Breton coal miners' choir).
Tickets for the concert are available from the Dofasco Centre for the Arts (Theatre Aquarius) Box Office at 190 King William Street. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Hamilton Spectator's Summer Camp Fund for children.
Doors are open all year round for interested male singers, and donations are always welcome to help defray running costs: charitable BN 134012400-RR0001. More information about the COMC is available on the website, comc.ca.
~ Shiona Mackenzie