As usual we met in August in Whistler for our annual retreat. We had a huge season to prepare for! It just so happened that our first rehearsal of the season fell on September 5th- our beloved founder and past conductor Cortland Hultberg’s 70th birthday. We were invited to surprise him at his home and share in the birthday celebrations with his family. We snuck up on to his back deck and began singing “When I Fall In Love” - Cort was delighted to see us all!
Then we asked the big question…would he be willing to conduct us one more time? We had commissioned him the previous year to write an arrangement of “I’m Glad There Is You”. He was quite reluctant to try, and it took some convincing, but we helped him to a raised stool, a tentative arm was raised...the first chords were sung…and suddenly and decisively he cut us off, explained what he wanted and got right to work! It was so moving and wonderful to have him rehearsing us one last time. A moment none of us will ever forget.
In the meantime, our fall concert was fast approaching. The amazing acoustic of the Holy Rosary Cathedral was the perfect complement to three world premieres. Jonathan Rathbone of the Swingle Singers had agreed to write one new arrangement for Phoenix every year for the next five years, and our first was “Down By the Riverside”. Greg Newsome ‘s “Lux Aeterna” and our own Dr. Luengen’s “O Süsses Licht” were the other premieres that we had the privilege to perform at that concert.
At the end of November Phoenix helped once again with the KISSFM Toy Drive at the Pan Pacific, and rehearsals began with the Vancouver Chamber Choir for a joint concert. On December 8th, Phoenix joined with the VCC to present Monteverdi and Bach’s Christmas Vespers in the Orpheum Theatre. Our traditional Christmas concert was held in two venues that year, Killarney Park and Shaughnessy Heights. With those performances finished, the choir spent the last few days before Christmas in small groups caroling at malls around town to help raise funds for our upcoming tour. Of course, we ended with our CBC Early Edition Christmas Eve show, a longstanding tradition.
And then, with the new year came such incredibly sad news. Cortland Hultberg, our founder and the conductor of Phoenix for our first 12 years, passed away on January 3rd. As a conductor, and professor in the School of Music at UBC, he touched thousands of peoples’ lives in a profound way. His wife Jeannette requested that Phoenix sing three pieces at his service; "O Magnum Mysterium", "Ave Verum" by Mozart, and "Goodnight, Sweetheart". Jeannette knew that the last song might turn a few heads but it was very meaningful for her - it was the last song we sang for Cort the night of his birthday in September. He had been so happy about our visit and, luckily, was still able to get up and conduct us again. He and Jeannette talked long into the night after our visit and laughed about our choice of Goodnight as our farewell piece. It had other significance for the two of them as well. It was extremely difficult to sing through tears at the service on January 26th, but it was the perfect way to say goodbye to Cort. Fundraising began immediately for a scholarship in his name, as well as a memorial bench that was placed outside the main door to the Music Building at UBC.
Our choral life continued with a retreat and recording for the CBC Choral Competition. Plans for our summer tour were finalized. And, in April we heard that once again we were to sing live in the finals for both the Chamber Choir category and the Contemporary category on April 17th. As the competition was adjudicated live, we knew right away that we had placed first in the Chamber Choir category and second in Contemporary!
As a warm up for tour, Phoenix travelled up to Powell River on May 4th to join with the Powell River Chorus in premiering a new work by Dr. Ramona Luengen. The piece was commissioned by the chorus to honour their conductor Nancy Hollmann who was retiring. We were honoured to be included in such a poignant event.
On May 25th we held our Bon Voyage concert at Shaughnessy Heights. Afterwards we held a huge reception and auction, as a final fundraising push, and we festively decorated the hall in all things German to get everyone in the mood! On hand as Master of Ceremonies was Norm Grohman, ably assisted by our Patron, Judith Forst.
Phoenix had two more concerts before it was time to start packing for tour. On May 26th Queens Avenue United welcomed us to perform as part of their concert series, and on June 1st we joined the Gentlemen of Fortune and special guests “Gotcha” to perform at Massey Theatre in New Westminster. With that, our official season was finished and a summer adventure was about to begin.
In 2001/2002 Phoenix was…
Danielle Hamilton (Hoskins)
Brian (Hoot) Gibson
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