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Founded in 1968, the British Columbia Boys Choir has had four artistic directors: Founder Donald Forbes, Gerald van Wyck, Tony Araujo, and currently Edette Gagné. Under their direction the Choir represented British Columbia and Canada around the globe as singing ambassadors in the Netherlands, the United States, Europe, the Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and China. The British Columbia Boys Choir is a four-part secular boys choir, one of the few in North America. Over its 48-year history the Choir has trained over 1000 members who have represented Canada on 35 international tours, performing a demanding repertoire spanning centuries, from Gregorian chant to contemporary works. Programmes frequently include sacred and secular works, selections from musicals and opera, folk songs from around the world, and an assortment of Canadian works; many specifically composed for the Choir. In addition to frequent radio and tele­­vision appear­­ances, the Choir has made over 20 record­ings and a one-hour documentary film, “Summer Song,” profiling the Choir’s 10th tour to The Netherlands and has been viewed on television around the world. The Choir currently has four CDs on the market: Live from Europe (July 2016); If My Voice Had Wings, Home and Spirit . In 2014, to celebrate the Choir’s 45th Anniversary, a book entitled “A Song to Remember” was published by Reikos International.

The Choir has had many special honours including singing on Parliament Hill on Canada Day in 2014 that was broadcast on TV across Canada; singing for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II when she dropped the puck at the Canuck’s Game in Vancouver; Opening GM Place and the Vancouver Library, special TV appearances around the globe and being the ONLY Canadian children’s choir to be booked by professional con­cert promoters for concert series in theatres across Canada and the USA for the past two decades. The BCBC has had the privilege to be the only Boys Choir invited to perform in the Van Man Choral Summit showcasing male choirs in the Pacific Northwest region for the last three years.    




It may seem like splitting hairs, but defining the British Columbia Boys Choir is a fairly elaborate proposition: a non-liturgical, SATB (soprano-alto-tenor-bass), boys choir. But what does all that really mean, and, more significantly, why does it matter? In this and a subsequent article, I'd like to provide a bit of background about choral tradition and the implications of both the old and the new repertoire sung by The Boys.

From the beginnings of western classical music, singing has been especially significant. Vocal music designed for church use was, for many centuries, the only music notated and preserved. Chant traditions of the early middle ages (heard in last April's concert) flourished in the many monasteries and churches.

As time went on, composers experimented with intertwining two or more melodic lines and what we now call polyphony became fashionable. Composers came to realize that differing voice types helped highlight the sophisticated interplay that is the hallmark of vocal polyphony. But at that time aspects of church policy effected resources available to composers: mixed choirs were not allowed in sacred contexts and there were many young singers already in the monasteries. The desirability of a complete range of voice types lead to the use of boy trebles in sacred choirs.

Thus for many centuries serious composers wrote their best and most impressive works in service of the church. Unaccompanied (or 'a capella') vocal polyphony was the style of choice and these works were specifically conceived for the blend of boys' and mens' voices.

Today all the serious choirs learn and perform the great historical choral repertoire: modern youth choirs are unable, by definition, to handle the full-spectrum repertoire. Contemporary mixed SATB ensembles can and do perform with sophisticated musicianship but they do not ever have the sound heard by Lassus, Palestrina, Byrd, Josquin and beyond; only male voice ensembles create the sound conceived by the early masters.

But let's go back to the BCBC's fundamental definition: a non-liturgical (in that they are not church affiliated) SATB choir of young people, uniquely equipped to perform the choral masterpieces of the 6th through 18th centuries. That the BCBC is by definition restricted by young tenors and basses is, to put it mildly, non-traditional. These implications, especially regarding new choral work tailored for the ensemble, will be covered in an article next issue.

Our People

Donald Forbes, Founding Conductor

Gerald Van Wyck, Conductor from 1988-2003

Tony Araujo, Conductor Emeritus

Margot Holmes, Executive Director from 1993  -  June 2018

Edette Gagné, Artistic Director

A charismatic and dynamic conductor, Edette Gagné has built a reputation for excellence in musical performance in her work. With creative programming, exceptional rehearsal technique and brilliant interpersonal skills, Edette has become a shining example of one of the “new generation” of conductors.

Presently, the Canadian West Coast is her home, where she is the Artistic Director of the British Columbia Boys Choir, Artistic Director of the Vivaldi Chamber Choir, and the Choir Director for Kids Sing Chorus, having just concluded a nine-year tenure as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Coast Symphony Orchestra. Edette is also a regular Stage Director and Conductor for The North Shore Light Opera Society, and volunteers with the VWMS, where she supports emerging professional musicians in her position as President.

Her passion for music is infectious. Fuelled by intense musicianship and attention to detail,  Edette’s performances reflect both careful adherence to performance practice and the high standards she sets for both herself and her ensembles. Edette approaches everything endeavour with zeal, energy and dedication. 

Her conducting experiences have now circumnavigated the globe, with shows conducted across Canada, in Sydney Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Scotland, the Ukraine, Los Angeles and New York City. She is in great demand as a guest conductor, adjudicator, vocal coach and lyric soprano. A strong proponent of new and rarely performed works, Edette has conducted several World, North American and Canadian premières.

Edette holds a Master of Music degree in conducting from the University of Calgary, Bachelor degrees in arts and education from the University of Alberta, as well as Associate Performance Diplomas in piano and voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. She has studied conducting with Helmut Rilling, Toshi Shimada, Paula Holcombe, Allan McMurray, Frank Klassen, Diane Wittry, Kenneth Woods, David Hoose and Christopher Zimmerman.

Edette's Website:

Read Jen Holstein's interview with Edette HERE>>


BCBC Board of Directors 2019-2020

Charitable Registration # 133712851 RR 0001 

Megan Owen, President

Pen-Hsing Hsuan, Vice  President  

Members at Large:
Alexa Bodel 
Megan Bryden
Bodhi Haraldsson

Edette Gagne