By Nina Horvath
This past March, the Vancouver Bach Choir hosted our first online panel called Decolonizing Choirs. The idea for this panel germinated way back in October 2019, when I was putting together our last Canada Council application. During the writing of that application, I fell down a deep rabbit hole of introspection, wondering what our organization could be doing better to further diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), both in our own choirs, and as choral leaders.
The result of that was the vision of an ongoing series of workshops with each centred around a different DEI topic, the first of which would be a panel on Decolonizing the choir. The events of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter saw the original concept evolve to an online panel that would draw from the lived experiences of Canadian choral artists from a variety of backgrounds. One of the most valuable things I learned about decolonizing this past year was that there is no quick and easy answer, and that even the people you look up to the most in this work have made mistakes. The best things to do are to get comfortable being uncomfortable, start listening and learning, commit the time, and know that there is no better time to start than now. I wanted to build a panel that would inspire others to do the same, and have confidence to make those first steps, even as they are learning themselves.
For me, the most important step was assembling a great panel, and we got that in spades with Andrew Balfour, Dr. Elaine Choi, Hussein Janmohamed, and Dr. Melissa Morgan. Personal connections and internet searches proved the most valuable here, and resources like The Choir Girl’s blog series on decolonizing choir were an excellent starting point. I am tremendously grateful to our panelists for bringing their incredible wisdom, empathy, vulnerability, and curiosity to this panel.
We hope that this panel will serve as a catalyst for others – it will remain our website, alongside the accompanying resource list, permanently. And we look forward to many more conversations, within our own organization and with others, to keep the work going. Stay tuned for our workshops next season – we’ve got some good ones planned!
Nina Horvath is an active musician in the Vancouver scene whether it is on stage or behind the scenes. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Vancouver Bach Choir. In addition to her role with the VBC she sings with the Vancouver Cantata Singers, serves on the board of the BC Choral Federation, and works as a collaborative pianist in the Vancouver area. She is passionate about delivering music experiences to as many people as possible.
Now celebrating its 90th season, the Vancouver Bach Choirs (VBC) aspire to foster an enduring love of music through artistic excellence. Led by Leslie Dala and Marisa Gaetanne, our mission is to perform major choral works with excellence and passion for the people of Vancouver and surrounding communities, provide high quality, accessible training for singers of all ages in choral music and support the creation and performance of new Canadian choral music. With eight choral ensembles, the VBC is one of the largest choral groups in Metro Vancouver and the only organization that provides choral singing to over 400 voices from kindergarten to adulthood.
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