(Vivian McLean playing the hand drum and Peter Brown on piano accompany the West Ottawa Ladies Chorus at Wintertime Cheer. All photos – Thomas Chmara)
Known for their impromptu performances, this past weekend, the West Ottawa Ladies Chorus presented two concerts of their Wintertime Cheer repertoire of seasonal music. This was not your typical carol time. The concerts were conducted and performed with the utmost of artistic creation.
The evening and audience were introduced to the nostalgic resonance of Celtic music as they entered the church, provided by fiddlers Willow and Fern Marwood, who performed prior to the choir taking the stage.
Robert Dueck has been the Director of the Ladies Chorus since 2012 and brings to the position a flair for the unusual. His selection of songs for this year’s Christmas concert were eclectic, upbeat, timeless and heart-warming. Accompanied by Peter Brown on piano, the over 40 voices of the Chorus filled St. Paul’s Anglican Church with an extraordinary timbre that enthralled the audience.
There was also an element of surprise at this year’s performance – for the audience and especially the choir members. Robert being of German and Russian parentage, received a special delivery the day previous to the concert – a Russian ushanka hat – brought back to Canada by a friend from Russia. Robert proudly and appropriately wore the hat while directing the choir for their performance of The Sleigh (A la Russe).
Robert is leaving as Director of the Chorus – Stittsville Central asked him to share a few thoughts on his experience with the Ladies Chorus over the years as well as his last Christmas concert —
“As founder and music director of the Goulbourn Male Chorus (2010 – 2014) and the West Ottawa Ladies Chorus (2012 to present), it has been such a privilege to lead a stage full of singers over these last several years. Interestingly, both choirs sang their inaugural performances with just 12 singers. Words are difficult to find to express the incredible amount of joy experienced in directing my last annual Christmas Concert ‘Wintertime Cheer’ performed on December 7, 2019 with the West Ottawa Ladies Chorus and how proud I am of this community choir and of each individual singer. My Director’s post-concert feedback included comments on how pleased I was with the balance of voice parts, and the vocal blend elements of tone, diction, dynamics, and phrasing. As far as I am concerned, they could not have been better. For me personally, the greatest joy was seeing the smiles on the faces of the audience and the applause of appreciation for the hard work from the 40 singers who performed each concert song with such joy and confidence. These are truly delightful moments for audience and singers alike. I love Christmas music and I did have my ‘boo-hoo’ moment stepping off the director’s podium knowing it was my last Christmas concert with this amazing group of ladies. But .. it is not my final concert quite yet and I am very much looking forward to directing the April 25, 2020 Spring Concert – a concert that will be filled with Chorus favorites chosen from the last several years. Personally, it could be a bit of a challenge to keep a dry eye. Until then, let the music continue and the memories keep growing. I love this choir.”
Robert is a prairie boy and the west is calling. His partner, Brian, is retiring in 2021 after many years of public service and they plan to move to Vancouver Island during the summer. And although Robert says he will be retiring from music leadership, we all know that remains to be seen. For sure Robert and Brian are retiring from Ottawa endeavours; for sure they are heading for the Island; but I am thinking Robert will have to sit on his hands, for with his energy and passion for music, he may not be able resist finding another niche in which to share his joy of music.