Little did we know, as we gathered at Whistler for our annual August retreat, that big things were in store for us that season.
Our initial focus was on preparing for our fall concert and participating in a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina, held at Christ Church Cathedral on October 18th. “Night Traveller”, the title of our fall concert, explored musical chronicles of difficult journeys demanding great courage, strength and faith, and of arrivals, expected and unforeseen. Phoenix was especially pleased to commission and premiere “Dream With the Angels”, a piece by renowned jazz composer/arranger, Michelle Weir. And we were also glad that Leanne was able to successfully sing the concert without giving birth to her twins en route (although the concert was nearly 2 months before their due date, they came 5 weeks early, so really, she just made it!) Side note: Leanne was REALLY big.
As the next year’s tour was going to require a lot of resources, fundraising was in full swing that year, and the first of two pub nights was held at the River’s Reach Pub in New Westminster on December 4th. That was followed by our Christmas concert at Shaughnessy Heights, where we shared our programme with very special guests. Our very own Janet Kyle brought her Sound Wave Handbell Choir, made up of students from all over Burnaby, to perform on their own, as well as to accompany Phoenix. The audience absolutely loved this beautiful group and felt that it added so much to everyone’s Christmas spirit. We were also pleased to present another Jonathan Rathbone commissioned premiere of his arrangement of “I Wonder as I Wander”. The Christmas season ended as it always did, with a visit to CBC’s Early Edition Christmas Eve show at 6 am. Thank goodness there was always coffee available!
In January we worked hard to prepare for our recording session for the CBC Choral Competition. At the end of January we sent off our recordings with hopes of being selected for the finals in May. A spring retreat was held in March at St. Edward’s in Richmond, and in April we discovered Ramona had been awarded the BCCF Herbert Drost Award for distinguished service and support of choral music throughout B.C.
Then it was announced…Phoenix was to sing in the live-to-air finals for the CBC Choral Competition on May 3rd. The first category was the Contemporary category, and we won it! The last category of the competition was the Chamber Choir category – the most hotly contested of all. And, we won it too! Then to cap it all off, it was announced that the jury awarded Phoenix the Healey Willan Grand Prize for giving the most convincing performance in musicianship, technique and programme. A grand sweep, worth $11,000 in prize money! You could almost hear the fundraising committee heave a collective sigh of relief...
We then had to turn our attention to our final concert, “A Voice of Conscience”. Once again, Ramona’s gift for innovative and thought provoking programming did not disappoint. American composer, Robert Moran, flew in from Philadelphia to hear our performance of his piece “Tears to Dust”, and South African minister Ric Matthews, spoke eloquently of changes that were needed worldwide.
After such a serious concert, the mood changed to one of celebration as we gathered at a local restaurant to celebrate Ramona’s ten years as our conductor. Many special guests were in attendance to honour Ramona and all she had done for Phoenix. Her commitment to the choir both musically and administratively was unparalleled!
All that remained of the season was one more pub night fundraiser and the annual pool party at Barb’s. And, Phoenix certainly does love a party!
In 2005/2006, Phoenix was…
Dylan van Dijk
Brian (Hoot) Gibson
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