Male chorus celebrates 60 years

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‘There's quite a bit of musical history with the John Fisher Male Chorus'

Choir director Henry Fisher.

By Lyle Carter

Celebrations have a way of making a person feel good.

Such was the case recently as the John Fisher Male Chorus held a 60th anniversary celebration service of song at the Knox United Church in Brookfield.

Rising to the occasion, the energetic men's group delighted a large audience as it presented oldtime gospel favorites such as A New Name In Glory, The Church In The Wildwood, How Great Thou Art and Just A Little Talk With Jesus.

"We had a nice turnout of both congregation and former choir members," said choir director Henry Fisher. "It was nice to have 27 singers with two accompanists join us on this occasion. Overall, it was a great celebration."

Fisher, 88, of Halfway Brook, near Middle Stewiacke, said that it has been an honour directing the male chorus for the past 24 years.

"There's quite a bit of musical history with the John Fisher Male Chorus," Fisher said. "I still enjoy taking part and I'm hopeful we can continue to sing as a group for a few years yet."

Originating in 1952 and directed by Henry‘s brother, John, the group was first known as the Masonic Male Choir.

From 1952 to 1983, the choir sang at 342 church services in 115 Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island churches. Other appearances included music festivals, funerals, weddings and concerts.

Kaye (Fisher) Retson, John Fisher's daughter and Henry‘s niece, became organist in 1961 when she was 14.

"I was taking music lessons and I was involved with the Middle Stewiacke United Church Choir," said Retson. "Of course I was travelling many places with my dad so it was natural to become involved."

In 1965, the choir's name was changed to the John Fisher Male Chorus.

"There was a lot of practicing and performing during those early years," Retson recalled. "We traveled all over. The guys loved to get together to sing. It didn't matter how big a church or how small, it was a ministry of music."

Retson said she played pump organs, pipe organs and everything in between.

"Every church had something different," she said. "You never knew what you would be playing until you got there."

Henry became a member of the choir in 1974 after retiring from the Royal Canadian Air Force. John Fisher continued to direct the chorus up until his death in 1983.

"The choir was not very active from 1983 until 1988," Retson said. "There was not really a choir director during that time but the group still performed for special requests."

In 1988, something positive happened.

"A few of us men discussed singing regularly as a choir again," Fisher said. "We talked about reviving what had been the John Fisher Male Chorus."

Many previous choir members were contacted.

"We got together for a practice to see how we sounded," Fisher said. "We sang first down in Old Barns and it picked up from there. We continued to go wherever we were invited. We sing mostly at churches, funerals and nursing homes. When people make a request, we're only too glad to sing. I consider it an honour to have taken over as choir director."

Unless it is a real special occasion the group usually consists of 12 to 14 singers.

"Kaye has been an excellent organist all these years," said Fisher. "Kaye knows how to handle the introduction to any piece we're going to sing. She has done so much for this choir."

John McElhiney has been the main organist since 2003 and Retson fills in or assists John when needed.

The recent outstanding night of music was followed by refreshments being served. Included was a large, delicious celebration cake.

Rather quickly, a noticeably happy mood seemed to overflow in the United Church banquet hall.

Your Stories by Lyle Carter appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.


Organizations: John Fisher Male Chorus, Knox United Church, Middle Stewiacke United Church Choir Canadian Air Force Daily News

Geographic location: Brookfield, The Wildwood, Stewiacke Nova Scotia New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Old Barns

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