A Brief History
The Early Years
In 1960, a small group of people who loved to sing got together to make music. In those early years, the group had various conductors and no fixed location. Rehearsals were held in members’ basements, church halls and eventually the Pine Room at Oakville arena. One of choral group’s earliest conductors was Sidney Bickham.
In 1969, Gifford Mitchell was recruited from McGill University to head up the music department at Sheridan College in Oakville. Gifford was an organist, educator, choir director, and University of Toronto graduate. He became the music director of their choral society, whose name was changed to the Whiteoaks Choral Society. We became part of Sheridan College, listed as a continuing education course in the college’s catalogue. Gifford brought with him an impressive collection of musical scores for chorus. These became the foundation of OC’s library, which now numbers over 500 SATB scores, housed in the basement of a local business. Gifford led the society until 1978, giving concerts in the Oakville Civic Auditorium and elsewhere in the community.
Donald Horsburgh then briefly took over leadership of the chorus. Under his baton, the choral group performed with Canadian singer and actress Dinah Christie.
Bev Stainton, Music Director, 1979-2009
In 1979, Bev Stainton assumed the role of music director and conductor, which he held for thirty years. Bev, a pianist, organist, educator and conductor, held numerous positions in choral music in Canada, including President of the Canadian Amateur Musicians/Musiciens amateurs du Canada (CAMMAC) and member of the Canadian Music Adjudicators’ Association.
Under Bev’s direction, we expanded our repertoire, singing classical music, opera, Broadway tunes, cabaret, and rock ‘n’ roll. We joined the Opera Mississauga for a fully costumed performance of Aida and sang the national anthem at a Toronto Blue Jays game. We helped celebrate the 150th anniversary of St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Toronto, singing beneath the amazing and only known religious artwork of the Group of Seven.
In 1982, Whiteoaks Choral Society was incorporated as a registered charity. Our legal name was then changed to The Oakville Choral Society Inc. in 1995. We now commonly go by the name Oakville Choral (OC).
David Bowser, Music Director, 2009 to present
David Bowser has been the artistic director and conductor of OC since 2009. David earned his Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Toronto specializing in eighteenth-century string and vocal performance practices. He holds a Master of Music degree in composition from the University of Toronto and a Diplôme d’Etudes supérieures II (Master’s Degree) in conducting from the Conservatoire de Musique in Montreal. David’s vocal training with esteemed pedagogue Marie Daveluy inspired a life-long passion for the voice. He studied orchestral and operatic conducting with Leopold Hager at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna and with Gianluigi Gelmetti at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy.
David has continued our tradition of community partnership. We have sung with the NYCO Symphony Orchestra. Our performances often include soloists who are winners of the Toronto Mozart Competition.
Oakville Choral has been fortunate to have had several outstanding accompanists. One of our earliest accompanists was Edith Bearley, followed by Richard Fiegenbaum and Joyce Hongisto, Marie Harris and Janet King.
In 2007, we were fortunate to have the internationally acclaimed musician Anne Marie Leonard join us. Anne Marie’s talents on the piano and organ are truly extraordinary.
Our Music and Concerts
OC has a vast library with varied repertoire. Concerts are usually in our local community, although we have sung in venues in Toronto and the surrounding communities. See our Musical Achievements page for more information.