King’s best-kept secret

A section of the University of King's College chapel choir practices before an Eucharistic service with Paul Halley. Photo: Julie Bertrand

Twenty choir members walk into the University of King's College chapel every Wednesday and Thursday, their robes swishing on the hardwood floor. During the service they sing in English and Latin as an organist accompanies them.

But he is not just any organist.  Paul Halley is an internationally known choirmaster and organist, musical director of the chapel and the driving force behind the choir. Since his arrival from Connecticut two years ago the choir has added more singers and has done more concerts than ever before.

Halley says his long-term plans for the choir include recruiting more singers, singing at more services every week, doing more concerts, going on more tours and recording an album.

The choir has a full schedule this year. It will perform four concerts at the cathedral. These will include two Christmas concerts on Dec. 12 and 13, and CBC Radio will broadcast one of them on Christmas Day. In early May the choir will go on tour. Stops include private schools in New England and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, where Paul Halley worked for 13 years.

"Our first concert will be in Windsor, at King's-Edgehill, and our last concert will be in New York City, at St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University," says Halley.

Choir members are excited about this year's program. When they talk about their experience in the choir, their voices and words reflect their passion and commitment. They all are musicians who believe that singing in the choir under Halley's direction is an honour and a privilege.

"I don't sleep much. I'm here and I also work as a chorister for St. Andrew's. Plus I work full time," says John Bogardus, a 23-year-old from Albany, N.Y.

"I decided that I wanted to be part of this amazing world-class happening that's being built at King's."

Jolanta Lorenc, a 23-year-old student from Harwinton, Conn., was doing the foundation year program at King's and thinking of transferring to another university three years ago. She decided to stay when Halley became director. She says she had previously worked with him in an American choir when she was a teenager.

"I was thrilled and very happy that he came up. I wanted to stay and to continue apprenticing, working with, and learning from someone who's a master at what they do."

Halley and the choristers all wish for the same thing- for more people to hear them. They still meet King's students who have no idea that the choir exists, and Dalhousie University students who have no idea that King's exists.

Daniel Watson, a 30-year-old classics student at Dalhousie and choir member, says people don't have to be religious to appreciate sacred music.

"I think there's something for anyone. People are going to get different things out of it, and I challenge someone not to be moved."


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