By Maimie S. Simpson
"Be courteous of behaviour and affable to all men; there is nothing that winneth so much, with so little cost."
The students of the University of Alberta decided to offer a new "extension" service in public relations. So, on Tuesday, May 6th, the Mixed Chorus, some sixty-four strong, started out in two chartered, and suitably "decorated" Greyhound buses for a seven-day tour of Southern Alberta. Seven concerts in seven nights — an undertaking for the brave of heart!
A word about the University Mixed Chorus before it arrives in Didsbury for its first performance. "The chorus came to life in the fall of 1944. On the initiative of its present conductor, Gordon F. Clark, the student body at large was invited to form a chorus without training or voice-tests, a volunteer organization open to all. The first two concerts given in Convocation Hall in February 1945, with a total of seventy voices, proved an immediate success, and were received with unqualified acclaim. The following year with a membership of one hundred and thirty-five voices the chorus presented two concerts in Edmonton's largest auditorium, McDougall Church. An invitation to sing under the auspices of the Optimists' Club resulted in a duplication of this success in Calgary. In 1947 there were again one hundred and thirty-five voices, but there has been selection since it was found necessary to restrict the large number of students seeking admission at the start of the term. Following two concerts in January of this year, the Chorus went on tour again at the invitation of the Optimists' Club, singing to enthusiastic audiences in Calgary and Banff.
"Apart from Athletics, the Mixed Chorus has attracted more students than any other activity. During its brief career it has demonstrated a striking fact that even in the Twentieth Century, the Age of Jazz, classical music retains its lure not only for youthful students, but also for the more mature audiences."
The conductor of this interesting group of young students, Gordon F. Clark, is a fourth-year medical student. Unfortunately, being a fourth-year medical student is an all-time job, so, the autumn of 1947 will find the Mixed Chorus minus its even-natured, much-loved, highly-respected director, for Mr. Clark is going to be, first a doctor, then, if time will permit, a musician.
Mr. Clark received his musical training in piano and cello in Calgary under the talented direction of Mrs. Egbert and Garbovitsky respectively. Along with his training he has a fine sense of the fitness of things, illustrated so often, particularly in the choice of programme. He is never too busy to be thoughtful and kind. His discipline is amazingly good, the members of his chorus obeying instructions without a murmur. Tense situations or weary moments soon clear themselves with, "Gordie, we want a joke!" A smile, then a joke, and the air is clear again.
The full chorus consists of one hundred and thirty-five voices but over half of this number had summer work that must start May 1st, hence only sixty-four members could tour the south. These students practised six hours daily for a week, Sunday included; gave up two weeks' salary; and paid for their own food on the tour. At least they felt the venture was worthwhile. Everywhere they went, they sang their way right into the hearts of the men, women, and children, proving themselves to be worthy sons and daughters of whom their beloved Alma Mater can be justly proud.
In Didsbury, Cardston, Claresholm, Lethbridge, Raymond, Macleod and Coleman the programme, with the exception of the odd encore, was as follows:
God Save the King
Come Again! Sweet Love Doth Now Invite John Dowland.
Ezekiel Saw De Wheel Concert Version by Noble Cain.
Full Many a Song A. Dvorak.
Jack and Jill J. Michael Diack with the assistance of George Frederick Handel.
Cherubim Song No. 6 Tchaikovsky.
Since First I Saw Your Face Thomas Ford.
Sunset Carol Mueller .
Beautiful Saviour Melody from the 12th Century F. Melius Christiansen.
Dark Water Will James.
How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place From the Requiem Johannes Brahms.
In Dulci Jubilo Christmas Carol R.L. de Pearsall.
Carol of the Bells Ukrainian Christmas Carol by Leontovitch-Wilhousky.
The Long Day Closes Arthur Sullivan arranged by Noble Cain.
Short'nin' Bread James Wolfe.
Ave Verum Corpus Mozart.
Five Concert Rounds Fitzgerald-Jones.
Joshua Fit de Battle Ob Jericho Concert Version by Noble Cain.
Under the sponsorship, and through the generosity of Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rotary, Lions' Club, or Home and School Associations, the students were billeted and entertained. The kindness shown them by their hosts and hostesses was so much appreciated that it was often hard to say `good-bye'. All along the way new friends were being made; students' horizons were being broadened.
There was much to interest everyone as the buses sped along: student life within the bus — laughter, gentle laughter, for voices must be saved; crossword puzzles containing unusual Scottish words; coconuts, that seemed to serve so many; honking of horns in the towns, and `Hello, Jimmy', whenever a wee lad came in view. And from the windows — the first glimpse of the Foothills; expanse of the rolling ranching country in the south; the Rockies, snow-capped and majestic; playful little lambs and wobbly colts; soft green buds and yellow buffalo beans. Springtime all around.
Every day brought new and different experiences. Two, in particular, will remain ever bright in the memories of the chorus members. The first, a tour of the Temple Grounds in Cardston conducted by President Wood of the Mormon Church. The stately building erected on a hill overlooking miles of country fringed by mountain peaks was the inspiration for several sacred numbers sung on the temple steps: In Dulci Jubilo, Now Let All the Heavens Adore Thee, Carol of the Bells, Ezekziel Saw De Wheel, and God Save the King — the chorus's own lovely setting.
The second, a trip off the beaten trail, to St. Mary's Roman Catholic Indian Residential School near Cardston, where Father Gerard and Father Sharron are in charge. These men and their associates had been very kind to four members of the chorus; so it was decided that the students should sing for the boys and girls. Each Indian girl was dressed in a bright Scotch plaid frock; each Indian boy, scrubbed till he shone, was in his Sunday suit. The one hundred and seventy-five children with the Sisters were assembled in the school's chapel, a unique chapel built entirely by unskilled labor with Father Sharron as architect. The windows, of which there are many, are fascinating, for each contains a large cross made of bright red transparent glass. In this colorful setting the children, all smiles and bright-eyed, loved the music. Their bubbly laughter when Three Blind Mice was sung said a big ¬Thank you', much bigger than words could ever express. And one Sister, expressing the appreciation of the entire group, said, "You will never know what this has meant to us; outsiders don't often come our way."
Sadly enough, all good things must have an ending, so, in Coleman, on the seventh night and final concert in the tour of the south was presented to a large and most appreciative audience. Encore following encore, the favorite Czechoslovakian Marching Song being sung twice. An announcement that became familiar to the ear, "For our final number we shall sing" — and this time it was Shubert's lovely Litany "by special request." The chord of O Canada. In an instant Mr. Clark was leading not only his chorus but the entire assembly. The sound of the many voices must have echoed and re-echoed through the Pass, in an attempt to retain the sweet melodies heard.
What if one were a little weary! Wasn't this the last night the old crowd would be together! Surely a celebration of some sort was in order for everyone was happy, happy because of work well done. To Turtle Mountain Playground, then, four miles away went the chorus members, some hosts and hostesses and the kind, long-suffering bus drivers, Ken Edwards and Roy Valentine. Dancing for a couple of hours to music "emitted" from all sorts and conditions of instruments, and at times, to strange and weird rhythms was the sport indulged in till supper was announced.
Of course someone had a watch, and like the old sundial reminded the group, "Traveller it is later than thou think'st." Thus, to bed, for the morrow was to bring the long journey home. The tour had ended.
Through the untiring efforts of Mr. Richard MacDonald, Co-ordinator of Cultural Activities, Department of Economic Affairs, this trip of the south was made possible. We should like at this time to express to him our very grateful thanks.
It has sometimes been said of young people that they take much for granted, are inclined to demand much, and are more often than not thoughtless of others. Such may be true of some, though we doubt it. We do know it is not true of the members of the University Mixed Chorus. Always were they grateful and gracious, always did they make a most favorable impression wherever they happened to be in the homes of their kind hosts and hostesses, or among the townspeople at large. Troupers every one. Ambassadors of Goodwill with whom it was a pleasure and a privilege to have been associated.
Published July 1947