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Harpist Hunter aims to build a classical Whistler

Whistler's two choirs start fall rehearsals as their choirmaster plans other classical shows



Whistler could embark on its classical age, if Alison Hunter gets her way.

Hunter is doing what she does each fall — preparing the upcoming season for Whistler's community choirs, the Whistler Children's Chorus and its adult counterpart, the Whistler Singers.

But the professional harpist and retired music teacher is also bringing in a Lower Mainland piano and string quartet to perform in Whistler in October — a first for her.

"We have a whole bunch happening," Hunter laughs.

"The need for more classical, more traditional music is there because we have a population that is retiring to Whistler and they retire from larger cities and they are used to having things like this available. It's also for the kids, too. Our kids should have the opportunity to hear this music."

Hunter is well aware of the popularity of the annual visits of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the impact of its summer institute on young musicians, but she believes more can happen.

"There aren't a lot of opportunities for (year-round) classical music. I'm open to ideas," she says.

"For me to listen to classical music, I have to go to Vancouver, and I'm tired of that."

Both choirs — the Children's Chorus is in its 23rd year — perform individually and together from fall until spring.

Their first public performance will be on the International Day of Peace — originally created by the United Nations in 2001 to celebrate a day when all hostilities cease — on Sept. 21 at Whistler Olympic Plaza.

"We will be singing 'Give us Hope' and 'Cantante Domino' (Sing a New Song). We will have had just two rehearsals, but both songs have been sung before and it's good to keep them on their toes," Hunter says.

"It's an important day. In 2007, on that day in Afghanistan, they were able to vaccinate 1.4 million children for polio. In war-torn areas, doctors can't otherwise go in. It's just amazing."

Ultimately, Hunter would like to see a chamber music series in Whistler throughout the year.

"We (local classical musicians) are looking at the week between Christmas and New Years — Dec. 29 and 30 — to do a mid-winter concert to start. We'll start a variety chamber concert. I would play and other musicians would play," Hunter says.

Currently, she is still accepting new members to the children's chorus and the Whistler Singers. Around 50 to 60 youngsters and around 35 adults regularly take part.

The Whistler Children's Chorus splits into two groups for practicing. The junior choir meets on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., the intermediate choir meets Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. There are two intakes through the year, in September and January.

Their first free concert — for fall and Halloween — is on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 5 p.m., at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church.

Whistler Singers meet on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Both choirs will perform for Remembrance Day, Nov. 11 and at a Christmas Eve carol service on Dec. 24.

For more information, visit www.whistlerchorus.org.