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MB Sings Celebrates 40 Years!

MCA flagship program celebrates 40-year milestone.


Manitoba Choral Association (MCA) once again held our longest-running and most inclusive program for the Manitoba choral community over the weekend of February 2-4! Celebrating 40 years this winter, MB Sings (formerly Provincial Honour Choirs) saw over 230 singers from all over the province and surrounding regions come together in Winnipeg for an inspiring weekend of music and community-building with guest conductors from across North America.


“We were so excited to bring Manitobans together for the 40th anniversary rendition of MB Sings!” said Jenny Steinke-Magnus, MCA’s Executive Director. “Our three-day-long program brought local dignitaries, choral enthusiasts, family, friends, past conductors, singers, and volunteers together for a one-of-a-kind weekend, full of music and singing.”



This year, MCA welcomed renowned choral conductors for the three choirs: Sonya Williams (Winnipeg) directed the Junior Choir (Grades 5-8); Melanie DeMore (Oakland, CA) directed the Senior Choir (Grades 9-12); and Scott Leithead (Edmonton, AB) directed the Adult Choir (ages 18+). Following two days of intensive rehearsals at Gordon Bell High School, the choirs shared what they had learned with family and friends at the finale concert at Portage Avenue Church.

The singers receive music for the program on Friday evening and only have 48 hours to learn and get their selections performance-ready for Sunday afternoon’s concert. Although this can be a challenge for some, our talented conductors, pianists, and section leaders prepare singers of all ability levels, and encourage them to come together, support each other, and do the best they can. “Everyone is so kind and supportive,” one Adult Choir singer said. “Whether you're a newbie or a seasoned chorister, you feel so welcomed.”


Junior Choir in Rehearsal

A highlight for many singers is the diverse music selected by the conductors. “My favourite part about MB Sings is the big variety of songs, in different languages,” one Junior Choir singer shared. “[I like] being introduced to pieces and composers that I normally don't have exposure to,” said an Adult chorister, “The music is so widespread and interesting. You learn so much in a short time but it's fun and not overwhelming.”



Senior Choir in Rehearsal

Melanie DeMore, known for her vocal activism and community singing, challenged this year’s Senior Choir to learn most of their music by rote, instead of following sheet music. “[I really enjoyed] learning with Melanie DeMore by ear,” said one Senior Choir singer. “My favourite thing was having Melanie teach us her own songs,” said another.


As part of the 40th anniversary celebrations, all three MB Sings choirs joined together on Saturday afternoon to learn Melanie’s song “Lead with Love.” It was a treasured experience for many of the singers: “The session on Saturday where Melanie explained the genesis of Lead with Love and then singing it with her was a very special moment,” one Adult Choir singer shared. “Melanie doing impromptu songs with all the choirs on Saturday was the most epic music experiences I've ever had,” another shared.


Besides rehearsing, the singers had many opportunities over the weekend to get to know each other, eat together, and to enjoy the talent of fellow choristers at “Saturday Night Live”. And, back by popular demand, Those Guys, Winnipeg’s own a cappella group, shared an exclusive performance with everyone as activities winded down on Saturday evening.


The weekend finished off with the MB Sings 40th Anniversary Finale Concert, which boasted an in-person audience of over 700 people from around the province, and MCA once again offered a live-streaming option for viewers. In addition to hearing diverse and engaging music performed by the choirs, audience members were invited to listen and reflect on an opening song shared by Lakota drummer and singer Jordan Bighorn. We were also thrilled to have the local radio personality, Ace Burpee emcee the concert, and MLA for Kirkfield, Logan Oxenham bring greetings on behalf of the Premier of Manitoba.



The MB Sings choirs were also honoured to collaborate with additional artists for the finale concert to bring even more musical joy to the afternoon. Joining the Junior Choir on guitar, was conductor Sonya Williams’ father, Vincent Williams for a Jamaican song from Sonya’s childhood, “Hill and Gully.” Several individuals from within the Adult Choir accompanied their selections with various instrumentation, and conductor Scott Leithead’s assistant, Travis Fick taught everyone the movement and music for the medley of the two traditional Sotho folk songs, “Sikirileke/Koloi.”



Midway through the concert a special 40th Anniversary Video was shared while the audience was given the opportunity to donate to MCA’s Program Bursary Fund, which provides financial support to singers who face economic barriers to participating in our programs. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to raise over $900 for this initiative at the concert!


Mass Choir (Melanie DeMore)

The concert closed with all three choirs taking to the stage together under the direction of Melanie DeMore to sing her piece, “Lead with Love,” and in true Manitoba choral community fashion, by the end of the song, the audience was standing and singing along too! Following the concert, conductors, instrumentalists, singers, our volunteers and the audience, were all invited to a celebratory reception to enjoy some refreshments.




Click here to view the concert program, and check out MCA’s YouTube Channel to watch the Finale Concert performances.


Thank-Yous

MCA is grateful to the Foundation for Choral Music in Manitoba, Long & McQuade Musical Instruments, Holiday Inn Airport West, and St. James-Assiniboia School Division for partnering with us to make this event possible. We’d also like to thank the MB Sings committee who worked so hard to organize and plan the event, and to all of our weekend volunteers who kept things running smoothly. We can’t thank you all enough for all that you do to keep this 40-year tradition alive!


More information on MB Sings can be found at: mbchoralassociation.ca/mb-sings.


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