We are built on a solid foundation of choral excellence and growth, and continue to explore new creative repertoire and opportunities. The organization would not have stayed around so long if it were only about the music! Singers come from many work backgrounds, including education, technology, health, business, and the arts.
We are students, parents, siblings, children, caregivers, and more. For many of us, singing with the Aeolians allows us to fulfill needs outside of these roles. It is a place to belong, connect with others, and to do something that fills us up as individuals. It also allows us to push ourselves, to celebrate music and get the satisfaction of learning and working together.
We have shared the joys of babies, weddings, and graduations, and the sorrows of funerals. With such a long history, some of these losses have included our own former singers, and we have honoured them by singing them to their rest.
Members of the Aeolian Singers are a kind of family, in all the ways families support one another. We welcome new singers to join our community and add their voices, and look forward to many more years of excellence and connection.
With singers who really love to perform, the choir enjoys presenting programs that have a narrative or a common thread that connects their audiences to an emotion, to a memory, or a place in time. We aspire to communicate our music in a way that brings connection, resonance and meaning for our listeners. Often using current issues or events as inspiration for programming, our repertoire is diverse and covers a wide range of genres, languages and choral traditions—from early music, to folk, pop, classical and contemporary. We seek to find a balance between sharing music that is accessible and familiar, and performing works that will challenge both our singers and audience to discover something new, gain perspective or grow in understanding.
A member of a diverse artistic community in Nova Scotia, the choir has hired and collaborated with artists such as the late great Laura Smith, Meaghan Smith, Shimon Walt and Lydia Hanson, visual folk artist Karl Penton, harpist Alys Howe, fiddler Anthony Rissesco, percussionist Mark Morton, author Donna Morrissey and oud player Hussam Al Assad.
During the pandemic, the choir focused their efforts on bringing Canadian female composers to the forefront. The VERITAS: Seeking Truth, Sharing Wisdom Project shone a spotlight on Frances Farrell, Carmen Braden and Marie-Claire Saindon and their newly commissioned works by inviting them to share their creative process in an interactive way with the audience in both in-person and online concerts and in a workshop setting. The choir also participated in the Sonic Timelapse Project, joining together with other women’s choirs to commission a new work from Malaysian-Canadian composer Tracy Wong.
Singing with fellow choral colleagues is always joyful and rewarding! Program partnerships have included Dartmouth Choral Society, Creative Voices of Truro, Moncton’s Riversong, Coastal Voices, Nova Voce, the Halifax Gay Men’s Chorus, the Manning Chapel Choir of Acadia University, and Sirens Women’s Choir in Charlottetown, PEI.
The Aeolian Singers began as a program of Dartmouth Continuing Education and from 1976 to 1990 the choir under Claire Wall’s leadership competed and won in music festivals, made recordings, performed with Symphony Nova Scotia and toured the United Kingdom, Europe and many parts of Canada. From its inception, the Aeolians were enthusiastic champions of new music for women’s voices, including commissions supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the CBC such as Dennis Farrell’s Vestigia and Alasdair MacLean’s Songs and Sayings, among others.
The choir became a provincially registered non-profit society and in 1990 Jacqueline Chambers became its second Artistic Director, a position lasting 20 years. During her tenure, the choir made two recordings, collaborated with many Nova Scotia and Canadian women artists, and developed themed concerts for International Women’s Day under the ‘Celebrating Women’ title. These partnerships broke new ground for women’s choirs, with original programs featuring modern dance, flamenco, poetry and theatre.
In 2011, Janet Gaskin became the third Artistic Director. A former choir member and guest conductor, Janet brought a wealth of choral experience and musical knowledge to the Aeolians and produced the original show Babes on Broadway, written and conceived by Eleanor Hall.
In the 2017-18 season, Heather Fraser became the choir’s fourth Artistic Director. With a focus on storytelling and building community, the choir has grown in number and has been presenting exciting creative programming. Using the choir’s strong foundation as a podium from which to look forward, the choir—as it always has—continues to shift, adapt and renew while remaining true to its mission and values. We have new dreams to realize, and hope for many more years of adventures to come.