The actual age of the Vancouver Master Chorale, which has changed its name several times across the decades, was unclear until just this year, according to Jana Hart, its director.
“We recently found an old, dusty book in our music library that contained programs and information that put the actual birth of our choir at 1949, making this year our 70th,” she said.
“We have been doing a lot of research in order to preserve the history of the choir,” including meeting with retired directors and former members, said group president Teresa Loftus.
Key to that research has been Irma Slocum, who will be honored at this Sunday afternoon’s “Carols” concert.
Now in her late 90s, Irma Slocum was the wife of the group’s founder, the late Bill Slocum, and an original piano accompanist who traveled with the choir. She also taught piano, music and kindergarten in the community.
In 1980 she wrote a quick history of the choir, which begins when the Slocums moved to Vancouver after Bill served in World War II. They both attended New York’s famous conservatory The Juilliard School, where Irma studied piano and Bill studied vocal performance.
In Vancouver, Irma Slocum wrote, the couple “found a city full of music lovers and good singers” but no functioning community choir. So Bill Slocum launched one in spring 1949. A naming contest came up with the group’s first title, the Vancouver Choraleers. In those days, the group worked with Vancouver Civic Theater to stage Broadway-style musicals and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, she wrote.
The Choraleers eventually became the Brahms Singers and then the Vancouver USA Singers. Bill Slocum retired in 1985. Hart became director in 2010. Just last year, the group changed its name one more time — to the classy-sounding Vancouver Master Chorale.
“It takes the choir to the next level,” Hart said.
In June, the Vancouver Master Chorale will travel to Costa Rica to give concerts and sing in the International Choral Festival for Peace.