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Village Choir makes debut Saturday at Alix Goolden hall

The Village Choir, which will perform publicly for the first time on Saturday night, formed nearly three years ago, with close to 100 members involved at its peak.


When: Saturday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Alix Goolden Performance Hall, 907 Pandora St. (enter through Johnson Street only)

Tickets: $29.27 from or 250-386-5311

Not every choir, be it amateur or professional, has the same end goal in mind. Some favour programming built around classical music, while outfits such as the newly formed Village Choir favour a more contemporary approach.

“We set out to be basically a choir for every voice,” said Claire Butterfield, who co-founded the Victoria community choir in 2020 with Oliver Swain.

“We have people from all walks of life and abilities in the choir. I think our youngest are 19 and our oldest are in their early 80s. So it is a very diverse group in that regard.“

Swain, a Juno Award nominee who has been a member of folk groups The Bills and The Duhks, and Butterfield, a classically trained singer-songwriter and former member of the group Fox Glove, both have long careers in music, including stints with several amateur and professional choirs.

For the Village Choir, which will perform publicly for the first time on Saturday night, the pair favoured an all-are-welcome mindset, and song choices that mirror said approach. Everything from The Beatles to the blues finds its way into the weekly choir practices held each Tuesday at St. Barnabas Anglican Church on Begbie Street.

“Claire and I thought we could bring and offer something unique because we both had really vibrant performance careers, but from slightly different backgrounds,” Swain said. “There’s overlap but lots different there as well. Having the tandem of Claire and I together makes us a little bit unique.”

It took a village to not only bring the Village Choir together, but to keep it running through the pandemic as well. The choir formed nearly three years ago, with close to 100 members involved at its peak. When the pandemic arrived, provincial regulations scuttled in-person activity. For the next two years, Swain and Butterfield ran a variety of practices, both online and in outdoor locales such as Beacon Hill Park.

“We hadn’t even made it through our first season when COVID hit,” Butterfield said. “We were a brand new choir. I think we had about six rehearsals under our belt when when we learned that we could no longer do choirs in person. So we moved online and then over the next two and a half years, we we sang online, we did drop-in choirs, we met in parks. We had like a hybrid model where we would have a rotating group of 12 singers that would join us and then everybody else would be online. We had to get really creative with the programming that we were offering.”

The choir was initially scheduled to perform its first live concert in April 2020, but that was postponed due to provincial protocols. Regulations improved in September 2022, to the point where the co-directors began making plans for the Village Choir’s long-awaited debut, now slated for Saturday at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall.

Several special guests will also appear, including jazz singer Emily Braden, folk-rocker Adrian Chalifour (formerly of Towers and Trees), jazz pianist Ashley Wey, and members of Swain’s own folk-jazz group, Big Machine. The program includes everything from honkytonk and gospel to music from Bon Iver and Deee-Lite.

Diversity is what initially drew Butterfield to the project. The passion of everyone involved is what keeps her there.

“It is such a wonderful group of people that likely may not have come together in any other context. They’re all from different parts of southern Vancouver Island. Different ages, different careers, different backgrounds. And it is such a positive and welcoming and happy space to be in. If I’ve had a long Tuesday at work, I’m thinking, ‘Oh my god, how am I going to go teach a choir rehearsal now? How am I going to find the energy to do this? But when I walk out of there, I can’t go to sleep.“

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