Vancouver's Chor Leoni has won the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence

'A testament to the choir’s ability to connect,' says artistic director Erick Lichte.

'A testament to the choir’s ability to connect,' says artistic director Erick Lichte

Praised for its excellent intonation and wide palette of vocal colour, Chor Leoni is one of the most active amateur ensembles in North America and performs more than 35 concerts a season. (David Cooper)

Vancouver's Chor Leoni Men's Choir has won the 2019 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence. Conferred annually by Chorus America in memory of the founder of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Margaret Hillis Award recognizes artistic excellence and commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities. The award comes with a prize of $5,000 US.

The Margaret Hillis Award rotates through a three-year cycle: professional choirs, children's choirs and adult volunteer choruses. Chor Leoni is the first Canadian choir to be honoured in the latter category. Previous Canadian recipients include the Vancouver Chamber Choir (professional choir category) and the Newfoundland youth choir Shalloway (children's choir category).

Erick Lichte has been artistic director of Chor Leoni Men's Choir since 2013. (Don Conrad)

"This is a landmark award for any choir to win," says Chor Leoni's artistic director, Erick Lichte, via press release. "It recognizes the unique way in which Chor Leoni makes deep, meaningful and positive change in the world through song. It is also a testament to the choir's ability to connect and beautify its local, national and international communities. I could not be more grateful or proud of everyone who has helped us attain this honour."

Highlights from Chor Leoni's most recent season include multiple prizes at the Bali and Singapore International Choir Festivals, a new commission commemorating the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice, and a tour to Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

"We sing to more than 15,000 people a year, run a free youth program to inspire young singers, commission music from some of the world's greatest composers, and work tirelessly to represent Canada in the choral sphere," explains Chor Leoni's executive director, Stash Bylicki. "Amidst all that, our volunteer singers also have lives and jobs. I'm thankful to each one of them, and am honoured that their work is being recognized in such a prestigious way."

Bylicki and Lichte will accept the Margaret Hillis Award in front of choral colleagues from across the world at the Chorus America conference in Philadelphia, June 26-29.