Formed in the 1960s by a group of singers who worked at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, the choir first came together to provide musical entertainment in the Rotunda of the Legislature Building for colleagues and the general public during the Christmas season. The singers who participated in this annual concert had so much fun that they decided to form a choir so they could sing together through the year.
Originally, the group had no official name, but they were nevertheless making a name for themselves around Victoria owing to the happy atmosphere they created with their singing and their quality choral sound. When invitations to sing at special events such as meetings and luncheons increased, the idea of establishing a choir took hold. The Newcombe Singers Association, founded officially in 1967, was born.
The new ensemble took their name from the Newcombe Auditorium in the Royal B.C. Museum on Belleville Street, which was their first rehearsal home. Singers included government employees, Ministers in the B.C. government, and support workers at the legislature.
The choir was so popular that family, friends, and eventually other members of the general public joined, swelling the choir ranks and contributing to the choir’s enthusiasm, rich choral sound, and high spirits. At that time, there was no non-auditioned choir in the city outside churches. Thus, the Newcombe Singers has the honour of being the first non-auditioned community choir in Victoria.
Since our beginning, the choir has been known for its friendly atmosphere, its interesting repertoire, and especially the fun we had out and about singing together. In addition to our great Christmas carolling event, the original Newcombe Singers sang at retirement functions for government employees at Government House, and numerous community events each year.
Music Director Kathryn Whitney leads the choir in the live broadcast Remembrance Day ceremony from the Provincial Legislature
The choir performs Festivals of Light, a multi-cultural concert celebrating the return of light to a full house at St Mary’s, Oak Bay.
The choir at a community Sing-Out.
Peter Dent leads a performance in downtown Victoria.
Erica Phare-Berg and Robert Dukarm in pandemic-era rehearsals.
Fast forward more than 50 years, and the Newcombe Singers is a happy, community-facing choir that is stronger than ever. With the original formal association with government employees a thing of the distant past, we are now an established community choir of approximately 50 singers from a wide range of backgrounds.
We sing two main concerts a year (normally December and May). Additionally, our community events include the annual events Carolling with the Carillon at the Royal B.C. Museum, and a Remembrance Day appearance in the Rotunda at the B.C. Legislature. We also sing three or four ‘Community Sing-Outs’ at retirement homes in Greater Victoria.
Led for many years by well-known Victoria conductor Peter Dent, and carried gallantly through the early pandemic years by conductor and composer, Erica Phare-Bergh, the choir has been led by music director and singer, Kathryn Whitney since September 2022.
Choral conductor and flute player Kristina Stevens has been our Assistant Conductor for many years, and we have benefitted enormously from the playing – and sense of humour – of our pianist, Robert Jan Dukarm, who has served the choir for ten years.
A key feature of our choir is the balance between our comfortable and friendly atmosphere and our mixed programming, which ranges from familiar music in choral arrangements to some of the more challenging choral works written for SATB voices. The choir originally sang a range of music from Bach to the Beatles. Although we have now moved towards predominantly classical programming, the breadth and depth of our concert material suits our mandate to be a choir for all voices and all people.
Together with our current Board of Directors, Kathryn Whitney has developed a ‘Choral Bridges’ project – a plan to expand our programming to include music that invites understanding and engagement with the communities that live alongside us in Victoria.
Through innovative programming, we have the chance to sing traditional Western classical choral music alongside choral settings of music from other genres and cultures. Our concerts underscore how much we all have in common and how we can connect with each other by singing together – a core value that the Newcombe Singers have held since their founding half a century ago. Our sixtieth anniversary will be coming up in 2027!
Everyone is welcome in the choir without audition. We ensure that everyone who joins us feels comfortable, valued, and supported in their singing.
Our singers join us to be part of a very special musical community–one in which everyone is able to sing according to their individual abilities, and to develop their personal and ensemble skills at their own rate.
Most of all, we aim to sing beautiful choral music, to have fun, and to enjoy our time singing together.