Three new choral works highlighting the LGBT Purge to be premiered at 2022 Unison Festival in Halifax

June 25, 2021

Unison Choruses Canada is excited to announce that it has finalized arrangements to commission three teams of composers and poets/lyricists to create three new choral works (SSAA, SATB and TTBB) to be premiered at the 2022 Unison Festival in Halifax/K’jipuktuk. This commission project provides a unique opportunity to create something very special for the Festival, while shining a spotlight on the LGBT Purge and its impact on Canadian 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and offering comfort to victims of the LGBT Purge. To find out more about the LGBT Purge, please visit their website.

The team of D. Geoffrey Bell (composer) and Ben Berg (lyricist) from Alberta will be creating a new musical work for TTBB voices to raise awareness and understanding of the tragedy of the LGBT Purge and bring it to the forefront of public attention. Geoffrey is an established, professional composer who has produced eighteen published compositions for choirs and instrumentalists through reputable publishers in Canada and the U.S.A. In the past, he has worked with AIDS Calgary to provide all of the music for one of their shows. Ben has campaigned for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights since the 1980s and was very active in Calgary’s community. Currently, he is an active blogger featuring photography and articles relating to hiking and travel adventures with his husband.

The team of Leslie Arden (composer) and Janice Martin (lyricist) from Ontario will create a piece for SSAA voices that shares the common story of those who believed in serving their country—to make it a better and safer place—only to discover that they themselves were not safe. Leslie is an award winning composer, orchestrator, lyricist and librettist who has written and composed over a dozen musicals. She’s been commissioned by choirs all across Canada, and she’s spent five seasons as a composer with The Stratford Festival. Janice is an emerging writer who earned a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto after more than thirty years as a Forester/Environment Specialist. She was a member of Iris: Toronto Women’s Chorus and is now a member of Singing Out (Toronto’s LGBTQ+ and allies community chorus).

Dr. Mark Sirrett (composer) will collaborate with Wendy Jean MacLean (poet) from Ontario/Quebec to create a new SATB work based on the poem, Before You Even Knew, which is inspired by the stories of leaders in the LGBT Purge class action lawsuit. Mark is an award-winning conductor and composer with almost 200 published compositions with various publishing houses in Canada, USA, UK, Germany and Sweden. No stranger to Unison, Mark has been commissioned by three of our member choruses in the past: Rainbow Chorus Waterloo Wellington, Vancouver Men’s Chorus, and Tone Cluster–quite a queer choir (Ottawa). Wendy is an award-winning poet and United Church minister whose ministry has championed diversity and inclusion. Mark and Wendy have collaborated previously on award-winning pieces for choirs in Alberta and Ontario.

The new pieces will be performed, along with other pieces. on the final day of the Festival by the three festival mass choruses. Participation in the festival choruses will be open to delegates of the festival from across Canada, but also on a limited basis to individual singers from the Maritime provinces, where there may not be formal LGBT choruses. Stay tuned for more information.

Unison wishes to thank the talented and well-respected jurists—Willi Zwozdesky, Deidre Kellerman and Robert Filion—who reviewed proposals from an incredible group of applicants from across the country and submitted recommendations to the Unison Board of Directors. And of course, we could not have embarked on this innovative and important journey without the incredible support of the LGBT Purge Fund.

See you at the 2022 Unison Festival in Halifax, from June 30 to July 3!