Montreal

Saint-Lambert choir celebrates 100 years of making music

The Saint-Lambert Choral Society is going all out for its 100th anniversary, holding a concert featuring not one, but two conductors in honour of its centenary.

The choir, founded in 1919, will hold centenary concert Saturday night

Conductor Xavier Brossard-Ménard leads the Saint-Lambert choir in rehearsal ahead of the big concert. (CBC)

The Saint-Lambert Choral Society is going all out for its 100th anniversary, holding a concert featuring not one, but two conductors in honour of its centenary.

The choir, founded in 1919, used to be known as the Saint-Lambert Amateur Operatic Society. Its members performed mainly Gilbert & Sullivan operas until 1965.

Around that time, the choir underwent a rebranding, becoming the Saint-Lambert Choral Society, moving toward a more traditional repertoire of sacred choral works and becoming bilingual in 1971.

The choir has been going strong since 1919 but it has evolved over time and moved to a more traditional repertoire. (Simon Martel/Radio-Canada)

Over the years, the choir has had a number of choral directors, including David Christiani, who held the role for 36 years.

"Half my lifetime as a professional artist has been occupied with this choir," he said.

As the choir's director emeritus, Christiani will participate alongside the current conductor at the centennial concert Saturday night. He retired five years ago and considers the upcoming event something of a last hurrah.

Betty-Jo and David Christiani met singing in the choir at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul. They have been married for 39 years. (Simon Martel/Radio-Canada)

"This choir has been a big part of my life," he said. "It's been a love story. I met my love here, and we married and we built our family life here."

He's talking about his wife of 39 years, Betty-Jo Christiani, whom he met singing in the choir at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul.

Betty-Jo Christiani, who has sang with the Saint-Lambert Choral Society for the last 44 years, joined because of her mother, who got involved in 1948.

Betty-Jo and David Christiani were married in 1980, shortly after David became the choir's director. (Submitted by Société d'histoire Mouillepied)

She married her husband in 1980, shortly after he became the choir's director.

"He would eye me across the hall," she joked about their early courtship.

"He conducted the choir for 36 years so we were able to make music together for a very long time."

Music to honour the 'birth of the choir'

The new artistic director of the choir, Xavier Brossard-Ménard, has been in the role for the last four years.

He says the choir has been able to thrive for so long because of the ongoing community support.

Xavier Brossard-Ménard has been the choir's artistic director for the last four years. (Simon Martel/Radio-Canada)

"In a way, a choir is like, self-rejuvenating," he said. 

For the centenary concert, Brossard-Ménard has chosen music that is "close to the birth of the choir."

This means a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem and Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.

The concert takes place at the Cocathédrale Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue in Longueuil. Tickets are $50, $45 for students and seniors.

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