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Whitehorse community choir bids farewell to artistic director

Farewell show featuring Barabara Chamberlin’s favourite songs planned.

Catherine Simpson

Whitehorse Community Choir

Barbara Chamberlin, artistic director of the Whitehorse Community Choir (WCC), will soon be entering a new phase of her musical life after her final concerts with the choir on May 3 and 4.

She has lived and breathed music since she was a young child growing up Maupin, Oregon, a town of 500 people. She started piano lessons at the age of seven, and her father was her school music teacher for seven years before she earned a four-year degree in voice performance at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Aside from a few stints in the early days doing other jobs such as photocopy technician, she has either sung in bands, performed as a solo act, or taught private voice lessons, as well as being one of the founders of Music Yukon and of Yukon Women in Music.

Her years in “girl bands” took her up and down the west coast from Oregon to Whitehorse several times, as well as to Germany before she settled here for good in 1997. She has composed many songs and even acted in the film Highway of Heartache, for which she wrote the music.

After filling in for WCC director Rachel Grantham in the fall of 2005, she took on the job on a permanent basis and has been in that position since then with only one term off, in spring 2023. Unlike many choirs, WCC continued practising and performing on a modified basis through the challenging years of the COVID pandemic before coming back to full strength in the fall of 2022.

She now feels it’s time to step back a bit, although she clarified, “I’ll continue performing in any way I want to”, whether as a solo singer or in a band.

She’s already working on a new CD for release in spring 2025, and will continue teaching voice and piano on a part-time basis.

The theme for her swan song as director is “My Favourite Songs,” which required quite a process of culling through all the choir’s songs since she has been choir director. As her taste in music is truly eclectic, the concert program will be full of a variety of pieces with different tempos and degrees of difficulty.

Among the songs she has chosen for the Big Choir’s portion of the upcoming concerts will be such pieces as Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, her own arrangement of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, the traditional Scottish favourite song Loch Lomond, Tango to Evora by Loreena McKennitt, and the African melody Rain, Rain Beautiful Rain.

There will be a few pieces by Mozart, too. One is Dies Irae (“Day of Wrath”) from Mozart’s Requiem.

Three other songs from Mozart’s Vespers have been chosen because choir members will be performing May 25 at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in a concert with Edmonton’s Te Deum Singers. These songs were meant to be sung in a massed choir concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City in April 2020, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic.

Always one for grand gestures in performances, Chamberlin (with the help of Rachel Grantham) has put together a 10-piece chamber orchestra to accompany the choir. The orchestra will feature local artists such as Katie Avery, Andrea McColeman, Jon Heaton and Roxx Hunter among others. Andrew Woolridge will be the guest soloist.

As well as the big choir, Chamberlin is proud to feature in concert both the Neptunes, and the Persephones, the women’s choir.

She started the Neptunes, a choir for lower voices, during her first year as director, and later took over directing the Persephones, the women’s choir. She really wanted to include the Neptunes’ version of Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn, and Dog of Shame, which she wrote for her CD Of Ice and Men.

Other pop songs they will perform include Walk Like a Man, originally recorded by The Four Seasons, and Java Jive, recorded by the Manhattan Transfer.

In early March 2024, the Persephones took part in a very successful concert by the Chamber Choir directed by C.D. Saint.

The Persephones will sing some selections from that concert, including Night Vision, based on a poem by Whitehorse writer Joanna Lilley and arranged by Stephen Chatman, and The Log Driver’s Waltz by Wade Hemsworth and Ron Smail. They will also sing a version of Grace Slick’s White Rabbit that she arranged.

Chamberlin started, directed and was part of the Chamber Choir, which has always taken on very difficult a capella pieces, from fall 2009 until the spring 2023 term when C.D. Saint, a member of that choir, took over as its director.

For the upcoming concert, members picked a variety of international pieces as their top three songs: When the Earth Stands Still by Don MacDonald (Canadian), Even When He is Silent by Kim Andre Arnesen (Norwegian), and Butterfly by Mia Makaroff (Finnish).

And there will likely be other selections that appear on the program, too.

All in all, it will be a big send-off to say goodbye to Chamberlin, and to thank her for all her hard work over many years. WCC members hope that everyone who can will come out for her final big choir concert!

The concerts takes place at 7:30 p.m. on May 3 and 4 at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Tickets cost $25 and are on sale at and at the Yukon Arts Centre box office.