Speaker Details

Speaker:Huntsville Choir
Topic:Huntsville Community Choir – A Brief History in Time

In 1989, when the new Huntsville High School music teacher, Louis Tusz, accepted an invitation from Doug and Marion Haggart to consider directing a community choir, I wonder if he realized they would still be going strong over thirty years later. And that he would have returned to direct it.

As he wrote in the Huntsville Community Choir Debut Concert program:

the Muskoka Musical Arts Society and the Haggarts put some ads in the local papers, provided me with a modest budget, and we were on our way.  Over forty people answered the initial call for singers, and more still appeared at later practices, bringing with them diverse talents and abilities.

The first objective was simply to get all these strangers singing — some were music readers from way back, and others barely knew what a treble clef was.  Some had sung in public before large audiences and others had just come out of the shower.  But they all possessed an essential love of singing.  By December the group had achieved a certain level of proficiency (and at times even a flair) in a brief repertoire of Christmas music.  So the next move was to make some sort of an appearance before a real audience.  Without hesitation I booked a Christmas concert at one of Muskoka’s most exclusive riverside clubs, the Fairvern. We were well received, I think.

In January the choir began work on new materials for our Spring concert…and a rather eclectic mix was chosen.  (Actually, about half the choir asked if we could sing “classical” music, and half asked for “more fluff”.)

That first concert offered “a sampling of several diverse styles, from Renaissance madrigals to contemporary jazz…entertaining you without wearing your ears out with either totally new music or with less than perfect execution.” 

The choir has remained true to that mission to enrich the lives of the community and its members through the art of choral singing of various types of performance, collaboration and outreach. 

Annually they perform Christmas and spring concerts and often a third specialty concert.  They have ranged through several Irish and Celtic concerts, gospel and spiritual performances, Broadway show tunes, Canadian celebrations and cabarets.  The choir has collaborated with Huntsville High School vocal and instrumental programs, Huntsville and Sundridge Youth Choirs, The Almaguin Choral Society, The Muskoka Music Men, The Muskoka Concert Band, and the memorable Elmer Isler Singers.

Their concerts often feature special guests like the Huntsville Suzuki Strings, Fernglen Fiddleheads, The Larks, The Huntsville School of Ballet, pianist Brian Smith, soloists from the Cellar Singers, The Ontario Youth Choir and the recipients of the Albert E. Furtney Scholarships.

Outreach programs take them regularly to offer their voices to local Seniors’ homes and local festivals and events: Santa Clause Parades, Muskoka Pioneer Village, the Bala Cranberry Festival, the Troubador Trail and the Olympic Torch Rally. They are a flexible group who simply love to sing and encourage singing.  Through the annul presentation of the Albert E. Furtney Scholarship to deserving students, the choir is delighted to support students in developing their musical strengths and interests. 

The choir moved from those early beginnings in the Huntsville Public School kindergarten room (where there was a piano) to the music room at Huntsville High School with adult sized chairs, music stands and an excellent piano.  They have practiced in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, Trinity United, and Riverside Baptist Churches and the High School cafeteria and when the music room wasn’t available, and performed in homes, churches, auditoriums, the Algonquin Theatre and outside in all types of weather. 

But they couldn’t have become the versatile and dedicated group they are now without the outstanding leadership of tremendously talented (and patient!) directors and accompanists. Whether the infusion of jazz and choral depth from Louis Tusz, the spirited cabaret style from Gloria Kidd (Moxley), the glitter and excitement of show tunes from Sherisse Stevens or the spiritual, Celtic and modern composers from Jillian McDougall (oh, Eric Whitacre!), these directors have teased out the best in the range of singers that form the Huntsville Community Choir and shaped an excited group of singers into an accomplished choir:

Louis Tusz                   1989-1995                              Charmain McCullough             1996

Gloria Moxley             1997-2003                              Albert Furtney                        2003-2006

Sherisse Stevens        2006-2009                              Jillian McDougall                    2009-2016

Louis Tusz                   2016-present

Patiently holding it all together were the equally skilled accompanists through those years:

Nora Bridgeman         1989                                        Linda Koop                              1990-1991

Marion Haggart          1991-1993                              Tim Sullivan                            1993-1996

Marion Haggart          1997-2001                              Tim Sullivan                            2002-2002

Greg Moser                 2002                                         Marion Haggart                    2002-2003

Ralph Moxley              2003                                         Roger King                            2003-2007

Kristine Knight            2007-2020                              Kyaung-A Lee                        2021-present

Many of the members of the original choir are still singing with the HCC and their children and students are now in the choir.  Thanks to such supportive, knowledgeable leadership, they continue to share their enthusiasm with the community.  All it takes is a love of singing.   

When that group of singers gathered in the kindergarten room of Huntsville Public School and sang the one song they all knew - O Canada - as their first piece together, I wonder if they had any idea the gift they were giving the town of Huntsville.