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September 28, 2017

Ottawa Baha’i Choir enters its 25th year

Bahá'í ChoirFor twenty five years now, the Ottawa Regional Baha’i choir has enriched community life through its spiritually inspired choral music. With a regular influx of new members over this time, the choir has endured as a fixture in Baha’i community life and interfaith events in the region. It traces its roots to the mass choir that was created to perform at the Baha’i World Congress in New York City in 1992. Three Ottawa Baha’is were in that choir, and they brought back with them a body of specially commissioned choral arrangements for Baha’i sacred music. They were joined by several others, eager to sing this “new music” that they had seen performed at the Congress. Over the next few years, other choir members attended choral workshops in Green Acre Baha’i School and elsewhere, further expanding the Ottawa choir’s repertoire.

Members of the Ottawa Regional Baha’i Choir have always come from both sides of the Ottawa river, they have been Baha’is and their friends, with different levels of singing experience. There are no auditions for the choir and those new to singing are encouraged to learn as they go. The membership generally has fluctuated between 10 and 16, but has been as large as 24 and is currently 20 members strong. Over the lifetime of the choir, as about 200 members have participated, choir direction has changed hands, often rotating between members. Since 2016 Christopher Barham has been choir director.

Bahá'í ChoirThe group regularly performs at Baha’i events and holy day celebrations in Ottawa and Gatineau, and have also participated in many public events, at interfaith gatherings, arts nights, children’s classes, senior’s residences, hospitals, weddings, memorial services and many other unique events. One memorable performance was at the 1997 Interfaith Service at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, led by spiritual leaders from around the world, as part of ceremonies associated with the signing of the International Landmines Ban Treaty.

From its origins in the classical choral music composed for the 1992 Baha’i World Congress, the choir has expanded stylistically. The core of the choir’s repertoire is sacred music, primarily musical renderings of Baha’i prayers and writings, but also including Jewish and Christian songs. The choir has also performed selections from a growing body of Baha’i Gospel music. Linguistically, most of the songs have been in English and French, but the choir has also performed pieces in Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Ukrainian, Latin and several African languages. The choir is currently exploring pop songs, an old English folksong and musical stage pieces that touch on universal themes.

The choir’s next performance will be at a large public event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah. All are invited to attend this event and new members to the choir are always welcome.

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