Me-Kon Hayes, president of the British Columbia Black History Awareness Society, invites Checo and the Vancouver VOC choir to their summer Afro-Carib Festival. She then invites him to start a Victoria choir.
Checo holds the first session with 7 women in a small upstairs room rented by the BCBHAS. Me-Kon manages the small choir.
Me-Kon places an ad in the Monday magazine and Brooke Maxwell and Gord Warrenchuk respond; they’re the first men to join the choir. Choir membership grows.
Rehearsals move to a classroom in the Selkirk Montessori School and a small team briefly takes over management of the choir. Gord begins recording rehearsals and producing low-cost CDs as learning aids for choir members. He also introduces the newsletter and builds a very basic choir website on which he places the lyrics document for download. Choir membership continues to grow.
Choir gives its first performance Click to see our list of performances. Brooke and Gord share choir management responsibilities.
As membership continues to grow, more rehearsal space is required and the choir moves from the Selkirk Montessori classroom to the gym.
Gord takes on all choir management responsibilities. Helene Meurer develops a beautiful website for the choir. The choir gets its own performance shirts and produces its first concert. The Executive Committee is formed.
The choir website and email address are moved to a choir domain. Gord begins putting the learning-aid recordings on the website. The self-produced Christmas Concert is the choir’s first sell-out performance.
Jack Petrie takes a leading role in organizing performances. The choir reaches new performance levels with an 800-seat sell-out at the Alix Goolden Hall in April; a “full-house” at the Vancouver Island Blues Bash; and a 650-seat sell-out at their Christmas concert. Rehearsal attendance grows to an average of 71 singers.
Our sold-out Eldercare benefit concert at the Alix Goolden Hall in April has people of all ages singing and dancing in the aisles, and our outdoor performance at the Victoria International Jazzfest in June is also a sell-out hit.
After many years of continuous work, in July Checo goes home to Hawaii to take care of a number of outstanding issues – he’s gone until the summer of 2010. During Checo’s absence, we continue to sing – in workshops led by Gord Warrenchuk until the end of the year, then under the direction of Gordon Miller until Checo’s return.
After a year-long sabbatical from the choir, Checo returns in June to prepare us for our first performance of the year at Blues Bash, where we “fill the house”. Our Christmas Concert at the Alix Goolden Hall sells out quickly and people still wait at the door with hopes of cancellations – all are successful. Workshops become a regular bi-weekly occurrence that are both effective and fun. Our on-line subscriber list grows to 90. For the first time since the choir began, our rehearsal attendance numbers drop.
Attendance remains fairly constant, as does the core of regular singers, so the vocals become tighter than ever, and our performances are strong. Performance eligibility rules are adjusted so workshop attendance counts as much as rehearsals. Near the end of the year, and for various reasons, members of the Executive Committee resign, so it’s a scramble to pull together our Christmas Concert and we don’t fill the hall.
Choir attendance once again reaches the levels attained prior to Checo’s sabbatical in 2009. Although he doesn’t rejoin the Executive Committee, Jack once again takes a leading role in organizing performances and once again they are successfully sold out. The Christmas Concert is a smashing success with 75 Choir members giving the Choir’s strongest performance to date.
With a solid foundation of more than 45 veteran members, the choir continues to give strong performances, and the Christmas Concert once again becomes the strongest performance to date. The choir does a Nanaimo gig as the opening act for the Sojourners. For a number of reasons, the First Metropolitan United Church becomes the preferred venue instead of the Alix Goolden Hall. Jack takes a temporary leave after the summer break, so the Christmas Concert is produced without him.
The choir takes a chartered bus to an evening concert in Courtenay. The audience loves us and as the bus leaves the concert hall, people are waving good bye from the sidewalk – we feel like super-stars. It was a very fun gig. Once again Jack is not able to attend the Christmas Concert and again it is produced without him – a challenge but yet another great performance.
With a solid core of experienced members, our performances continue to be very strong. Our free, June 30 Willows Beach evening performance draws a large and enthusiastic crowd, and our Christmas concert is a completely sold-out event with a large number of online ticket sales. The choir website is completely revamped.
Once again, our free Willows Beach evening performance (this year it’s paid for by choir member Roberto Cecchini) draws a large crowd, but not as large as last year. Our Christmas Concert is also not as well attended. Our Thanksgiving performance is very strong and the Lieutenant Governor and Oak Bay mayor come backstage to thank us after the show.
The day the earth moved – the stage and risers at our free Willows Beach evening performance (again paid for by Roberto) start swaying dangerously with our choreography, so Checo signals us to stop moving and simply snap or clap. Our Jazz Fest Performance and our Christmas Concert are virtual sell-outs.
The 2018 highlight was a great, themed concert, “The Road Less Travelled”, with David Vest at the UVic Farquhar Auditorium. Although the Christmas Concert wasn’t a sell-out, it was well-attended. Our performance at both concerts was very strong.
The choir rebrands itself away from gospel and towards a performance-for-pay orientation with a new name and logo, and a stronger focus on soul music. Checo brings a number of brand new songs. After many years of producing successful Christmas Concerts, Jack and Gord decide to step down; no choir members step up. Selena organizes an effective Executive Committee to help with decision-making and other management tasks. Victoria takes a more active role in managing the choir and leads a concert team to produce the Remembrance Day concert. Once again, Jack and Roberto make significant concert financial contributions.
Our February performance ended with us going to the foot of the stage and sing to/with the audience. Shortly thereafter, all Rehearsals and Workshops were cancelled due to COVID-19.
April 5 is our first rehearsal after a hiatus of more than two years. After one of the May rehearsals, many choir members became ill with COVID, so remaining rehearsals and workshops were cancelled and we were forced to cancel our July concert at Willows Beach Park. Because we had an October concert scheduled, we decided to start workshops in mid-August and were able to remain healthy and perform the concert with Daniel Lapp’s choir as the opening act. We produced a Christmas Concert, the first in a number of years, but it wasn’t well attended – too much competition for audiences. We didn’t lose money but we had no profits to share with our benefactor charity. Because attendance is way down and expenses are way up, the choir needs to re-evaluate it’s structure and operating procedures for 2023.
Significant membership drop and significant expense increases drive the choir to financial near-end. Roberto Cecchini makes significant financial contributions to keep the choir afloat. He encourages Checo to begin teaching new song and he does.