History of the Choir

In 1966, at the invitation of the Canadian Centennial Commission, the late Nicholas Goldschmidt pulled together members of existing Ottawa choirs to help celebrate Canada’s Centennial; thus the Canadian Centennial Choir was born. The first assignment of the new 200-voice choir was to sing O Canada on Parliament Hill at midnight on December 31, 1966 and again on the same date in 1967 to bookend centennial music celebrations in the capital. A couple of concerts conducted by Mr. Goldschmidt in Ottawa’s lovely Capitol Theatre followed. The choir accompanist in those early days was the late Godfrey Hewitt, acclaimed organist, choirmaster, composer and teacher. The Canadian Centennial Choir sang at the official opening of the National Arts Centre in 1969 and returned in 1970 to perform the Canadian premiere of Beethoven’s only oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, one of several concerts to be broadcast on CBC Radio.

The choir has acquired a reputation for versatility, performing a repertoire that stretches from the choral masterworks of Bach, Handel, Fauré and Britten to popular folk songs and traditional carols. The Canadian Centennial Choir also meets the challenge presented by contemporary Canadian composers such as Srul Irving Glick and Derek Holman. In recent seasons the choir has showcased works by local composers: we have commissioned and premiered works by Patrick Cardy, Peter Churchill and Michael Bussière, as well as Earth Song by Jan Järvlepp. Commissions have also been awarded to Patrick Wedd and Pamela Houston.

Our more memorable concerts include:

The Canadian Centennial Choir offers audiences an entertaining and eclectic mix of choral music in concerts that feature pieces by new composers as well as beloved masterworks, with a special focus on Canadian composers, and featuring performances by local musicians and soloists.