Our History and More

Our History goes back much further than just 18 years! In the 1980’s, a choral director named Irene Schmor created the renowned Amadeus Children’s Choir, at a time when there were few high-level children’s choirs in Canada. Amadeus launched the careers of numerous professional singers, plus it toured Europe and made recordings. When Mrs. Schmor retired her Amadeus Children’s Choir, many singers wanted to continue to perform together and in 1998 a new society was formed – AcademyWest Schola Cantorum. Susan James, who had been the longtime accompanist for Amadeus, led the choir. Susan’s life journey soon took her to England and, in 2000, Fiona Blackburn was hired as Artistic Director of AcademyWest.

It was not long before Fiona could see that the few boys in AcademyWest would be better served by singing with the British Columbia Boys Choir and, upon an unanimous decision from all involved, the name AcademyWest was officially changed to the British Columbia Girls Choir in 2004. BC Girls and BC Boys Choirs were separate organizations, although they performed and toured together periodically, including an extensive concert tour through China in 2006.

Over the past 18 years, Fiona, along with her friend and colleague Lynn van Zanten (who has stepped down from many years as BC Girls Choir’s Executive Director), have developed the BC Girls Choir from a handful of singers to over 150 girls who participate in concerts, recordings, festivals, camps and community outreach events each year. Lynn handed much of her work to Nicole Wright, our wonderfully competent General Manager.

Highlights of the past 18 years include: numerous years representing British Columbia at the National Music Festival; three 2010 Winter Olympic appearances; and being awarded the 2008 Elmer Iseler Award for the best performance of a Canadian work at the renowned International Choral Kathaumixw. The girls have made guest appearances with such artists as: the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Elektra Women’s Choir, Chor Leoni Men’s Choir, the Sea to Sky Symphony, opera superstar Ben Heppner and world famous singing groups The Nylons and The Tenors.

2018 Children’s Choir of the World! Our most exciting performance to date was on the world stage at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales – one of the most prestigious global competitions! BC Girls Choir and the Hereford Cathedral Girls Choir tied for best children’s choir – bringing home the coveted ‘Children’s Choir of the World’ trophy as one of only two Canadian choirs that have ever received this honour, the other being Newfoundland’s Shallaway Youth Choir.

2020 winners of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod’s Virtual Competition. From the past 25 years of competitors, our choir earned the most votes as the favourite performance in the Children’s category. Thank you to all our choir fans for your support.

Touring is an important mandate of BC Girls Choir – to perform music of Canadian composers beyond our borders. The choir has been fortunate to tour Australia, China, North and Central America, and ten countries of Europe: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Holland, Croatia, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. The girls have sung in famous cathedrals, concert halls and in some unusual venues, such as: a Roman amphitheatre, at a Scottish Highland Games, in caves, in the gardens where The Sound of Music was filmed, and live on Croatian TV! Whenever and wherever the girls travel, they love to represent their province, share their music and make new ‘choir friends’ from all over the world.

2019 – 2020: was to have been the celebration of our 15th Anniversary Season, and we had a lot to celebrate! With the outbreak of the Covid-19 Virus Pandemic, we cancelled all events and rehearsals from March to July.

2020 – 2021: was also a roller coaster season. We managed a few in-person rehearsals and supplemented the girls’ learning with some on-line sessions and projects. Although we could not perform in person, we still rose our voices and shared our music with you on our Youtube Channel. Our year-end virtual concert – We Rise Again – was recorded in May and June, 2021 and in the first two weeks on YouTube got almost 600 views!

2021 – 2022: was a normal a season with the return of in-person concerts in December and June as well as our SpringSing Girls Choir outreach program.