Looking Back: Maple Ridge Choral Society still going strong

First concert dates back to 1933 at United Church in Hammond

A formal portrait of the choral society from the 1960s. Front right: George Sheldrake

By Allison White

The origins of choral music are found in traditional music, as singing in large groups is widely spread in traditional cultures, both singing in one part, or in unison.

The oldest choral repertory that survives is that of ancient Greece.

As in other genres of music, choral music underwent a period of experimentation and development during the 20th Century.

While few well-known composers focused primarily on choral music, most significant composers of the early last century produced some fine examples that have entered the repertoire.

The Maple Ridge Choral Society is the oldest choir in the district.

Its first concert dates back to Nov. 8, 1933, under the direction of J.P. Nelson, which took place at the United Church in Hammond.

The price of admission was 25 cents.

The choral society has a definite place in the life of a community, as it was one of the main forms of entertainment, when the group started, over 80 years ago.

From the Maple Ridge Gazette, c. 1950: “Conductor and orchestra members are one in their love of music, and having a wonderful time doing so. At the same time they are adding much to the cultural life of the Fraser Valley, and providing that the general public does appreciate good music, and not just the sort of thing to which they can keep time with their feet.”

George Sheldrake was one of the group’s first directors. A talented musician in his own right, he also led a brass band that played alongside the choir.

Under Sheldrake’s direction, membership soon grew to over 100 musicians, and the group played a steady stream of concerts.

Another early leader, Monrad Malmin, an orchestral director, led the choir alongside a large string orchestra during concerts.

The choir continued at a strong pace, putting on multiple concerts each year. But by the mid-1960s, the choir was unable to secure a new director, and the it was disbanded, much to the disappointment of its members.

It wasn’t until 1984 that the choir received new leadership, under Robin Williams, and the choir became made up of local residents who love to sing choral music.

Today, the choir sings in four-party harmony: soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

It has over 40 members, of all ages, and the mission is “dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of its members and providing a vehicle for the community at large to participate in and experience choral singing.”

The choir’s next concert “Christmas Then and Now” will take place Sunday, Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. at the Maple Ridge Christian Reformed Church.

Tickets will be available at the door.

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