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MCA Announces 2023 Awards of Distinction Recipients

Highest choral honours go to three Manitoba choral community members

Manitoba Choral Association (MCA) has selected three worthy recipients for our 2023 Awards of Distinction, the highest honour for the province’s choral community. This year's recipients include Derek Morphy, Millie Hildebrand, and Marla Fontaine.

The Awards of Distinction were established in 2020 to honour individuals, choirs, institutions, corporations, and programs in recognition of their valuable contributions to the choral community of Manitoba. The awards fall into three categories: the MCA Award for Artistic Excellence, recognizing outstanding artistic achievement, innovation, and significant leadership in choral music; the MCA New Voice Award, recognizing emerging artists who inspire new projects, ideas, or display artistic potential in choral music; and the MCA Spirit Award, recognizing contributions such as outreach, service, education, diversity, sponsorship, or other significant advocacy work to the choral arts.

Derek Morphy

This year’s recipient for the MCA Award for Artistic Excellence is Derek Morphy (Winnipeg). Originally from England, Derek moved to Manitoba in 1967, where his teaching and singing career flourished. He founded and conducted an early music ensemble, Madrigalia, in Brandon, and later, one of Winnipeg’s foremost chamber choirs, Renaissance Voices.

Derek has made a significant impact on the Manitoba choral community as a choral director, educator, mentor, performer, administrator, and volunteer, particularly in the Westman and Winnipeg regions. He is a co-founder of the Western Manitoba Youth Choir, the first of its kind in the province, establishing a prototype that other regions would follow for years to come. Highlights of Derek's generous commitment to MCA's mission include serving as Board President from 1997-99, Co-Chair of Podium (2004), and later as Library Chair.

As the recipient of an MCA Honorary Membership in 2011, Derek is highly respected by the many professionals, choristers, and students he has worked with during his career. Derek's creative work with choirs has put Manitoba on the national performing arts map as a place where choral excellence is standard, and solidified Manitoba's reputation as "The Singing Province." To this day, Derek continues to lead by example by volunteering at MCA and other choral events across the province. He has undoubtedly touched the lives of thousands of Manitobans through his years of service. Congratulations, Derek!

The 2023 MCA Spirit Award has been awarded to two individuals dedicated to the growth and success of MCA and the Manitoba choral community: Millie Hildebrand (Winnipeg) and Marla Fontaine (Brandon).

Millie Hildebrand has enjoyed a life-long involvement in the vocal and choral arts and is familiar to Manitoba’s music community as a teacher, choral director, voice instructor and festival adjudicator. She has taught classroom and choral music at all levels, and has been active in implementing programs for young musicians throughout the province. Choirs under Millie’s direction have toured extensively in Canada and Europe, and have been privileged to be the guests of such luminaries as the late Queen Elizabeth II, Jose Carreras, Fred Penner and Al Simmons. Millie’s performance history includes productions with Manitoba Opera, Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre, the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus and Canzona.

Millie has devoted countless years of service to the Manitoba choral community, most notably in Eastman and Winnipeg. Millie has given her time generously to committee work for choirs and various boards, most recently as Co-President of the Women's Musical Club of Winnipeg, and on the MCA Board, where she took on the roles of Co-President and Past President and led marketing, fundraising, and outreach activities, among other initiatives. Millie's support and encouragement has no doubt been instrumental in the lives of many budding choral conductors in developing their craft early in their careers. Congratulations, Millie!

Originally from Flin Flon, Manitoba, Marla Fontaine is the Director of Youth Choirs for the Brandon Conservatory Chorale program and is the music specialist at École Harrison in Brandon, where she directs four choirs from grades one to eight. She is currently working on her Master of Performance in Choral Conducting and is also Assistant Director of the adult chamber choir, Konektis. Marla is also a past President of the Manitoba Music Educators' Association and previously coordinated the Orff Children's Day in Brandon as well.

Marla's passion for the choral arts is evident in the many choral roles she has taken on over the years, including director, educator, guest conductor, and singer for school, community, and regional youth choirs. Marla's tireless advocacy for the choral community was highlighted in her award nomination, noting that she "works to ensure that choirs have the resources, education, and supports they need to thrive and is committed to professional development in music education." Marla has served on many boards and committees, most recently including MCA’s IDEA and BEYOND Committees, to explore inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility in the Manitoba choral community. Marla has indeed touched the lives of many Manitobans through her choral service. Congratulations, Marla!

Nominations for MCA's Awards of Distinction can be made throughout the year on MCA's website at

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