Arbutus Singers

Written by Harold McNeill on June 4th, 2012. Posted in Book & Movie Reviews

Below: Arbutus Singers Performing at
First Metropolitan United Church

June, 2012: Photos of Arbutus Singers courtesy of Nadine Schaddelee

December 5, 2012 Another stellar performance by the Arbutus Singers, this time a return engagement at St. Aiden’s Church. Jack Boomer, the Musical Director, is always at his best, not only as he lead the choir, but also with his easy going manner as he engaged the capacity crowd of 400.

As promised to the neighborly folks with whom we shared front and centre seats, the following photographs have been added. A few words about the Choir and last springs presentation follows below. 

June 1, 2012 Victoria, BC

Having so enjoyed the Christmas 2011 performance, Lynn and I returned for another wonderful evening of music and song with the Arbutus Singers who were joined by the Arbutus Kids Choir for several songs.  As an added bonus Lynn and I were greeted with a sprinkling of the Cold High School years as Dawna McGowan (Soprano) and her husband Kim (Tenor) are long standing members of the Arbutus Singers.

Also Dawna’s twin sister, Shirlee McCorkle and her husband Ross, now both of Kelowna, were in the capacity crowd at the First Metropolitan United Church. Fifty years have elapsed since Shirlee, Ross and I last met and, amazingly when taken as a group, it seems that not one of us has aged a day. Ahh, but perhaps the older mind can play tricks or is it that wonderful singing that keeps one young?

The singers, under the artistic leadership of Music Director Jack Boomer, provided the crowd with stirring performances of California Dreamin’, Feeling Groovy, One Tin Soldier, Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, Yesterday, Greased Lightening and Big Yellow Taxi, among other timeless classics. Accompanyment by Robyn McKinnon on the keyboard (that young woman has now been with the Arbutus group for the past ten years), Jody Onuma, playing the ‘fiddler’ from the upper balcony (guess which song that might have been), Joe Hatherill, on the sax and flute and Paul Longley on the guitar, rounded out the evenings musical adventure.

The crowd, with a mix of ages, that, I shall have to admit, tended toward graying rock and rollers and boomers, clearly appreciated the considerable time and effort the director, singers and musicians have devoted to perfecting the performance.  A superb rendition of “It’s a Wonderful World” performed along with the Kids Choir, drew another of several standing ovations.

As a special gift to and in recognition of the inspiring leadership of the Arbutus Singers in introducing hundreds of children to the wonderful world of choir music, the Telus Foundation presented the organization with a cheque for $10,000 to help promote music amongst children through the Arbutus Community Outreach Program.

Each is to be commended for their inspiring work both on and off the stage.  If you have a chance, log onto their Web Site (Link Here). I am sorry to report that June 2, was the final concert of this season, but log in in September, to find the dates of next season’s performances, then attend. Guranteed, you will not be disappointed.


The Kids Choir

Kids with the Arbutus Singers

Now, would the following be “Men in Black” or “Greased Lightening”?


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  • Harold McNeill

    August 16, 2019 |

    Many thanks for reviewing the article Elizabeth. There are so many areas of our society in which populism carries the day, although I think what is happening with the ICBC is that groups having a vested interest in private insurance would dearly love to dislodge ICBC from their preferred position. That being said, I think was a good move to have only portions of the insurance coverage in BC being held by ICBC and other portions being made available through private enterprise.

  • Elizabeth Mary McInnes, CAIB

    August 15, 2019 |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resident of British Columbia look to review all the facts over believing what is reported in the news or just following along with the negative stigma of the masses. Your article truly showcases that with a little reform to ICBC’s provincial system – British Columbia could be a true leader for other provinces in Canada. Very well written article!

  • Harold McNeill

    August 13, 2019 |

    August 13, 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a private enterprise group not unlike the Fraser Institute, is again on the campaign trail. They state ICBC rates are the highest in Canada, but, thankfully, Global BC inserted a section indicating the Insurance Bureau cherry-picked the highest number in BC and the lowest numbers in AB, ON and other Eastern Provinces. If you take a few minutes to check reliable sources you will find BC rates, are the lowest in Canada.

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.