Our History and More

This season is one to celebrate – British Columbia Girls Choir is 15 Years Old!

Our History goes back much further than just 15 years! In the 1980’s, a choral director named Irene Schmor created the renowned Amadeus Children’s Choir, at a time when there were few high-level children’s choirs in Canada. Amadeus launched the careers of numerous professional singers, plus it toured Europe and made recordings. When Mrs. Schmor retired her Amadeus Children's Choir, many singers wanted to continue to perform together and in 1998 a new society was formed - AcademyWest Schola Cantorum. Susan James, who had been the longtime accompanist for Amadeus, led the choir. Susan’s life journey soon took her to England and, in 2000, Fiona Blackburn was hired as Artistic Director of AcademyWest.

It was not long before Fiona could see that the few boys in AcademyWest would be better served by singing with the British Columbia Boys Choir and, upon a unanimous decision from all involved, the name AcademyWest was officially changed to the British Columbia Girls Choir in 2004. BC Girls and BC Boys Choirs are separate organizations, although they have performed and toured together periodically, including an extensive concert tour through China in 2006.

Over the past 15 years, Fiona, along with her friend and colleague Lynn van Zanten (just retiring from 15 years as BC Girls Choir’s Executive Director), have developed the BC Girls Choir from a handful of singers to over 150 girls who participate in concerts, recordings, festivals, camps and community outreach events each year. Highlights of the past 15 years include: numerous years representing British Columbia at the National Music Festival; three 2010 Winter Olympic appearances; and being awarded the 2008 Elmer Iseler Award for the best performance of a Canadian work at the renowned International Choral Kathaumixw. The girls have made guest appearances with such artists as: the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Elektra Women’s Choir, Chor Leoni Men’s Choir, the Sea to Sky Symphony, opera superstar Ben Heppner and world famous singing groups The Nylons and The Tenors.

2018 Children's Choir of the World! Our most exciting performance to date was on the world stage at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales – one of the most prestigious global competitions! BC Girls Choir and the Hereford Cathedral Girls Choir tied for best children’s choir – bringing home the coveted ‘Children’s Choir of the World’ trophy. 

Touring is an important mandate of BC Girls Choir - to perform music of Canadian composers beyond our borders. The choir has been fortunate to tour Australia, China, North and Central America, and ten countries of Europe: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Holland, Croatia, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. The girls have sung in famous cathedrals, concert halls and in some unusual venues, such as: Roman amphitheatres, at Highland Games, in caves, in the gardens where The Sound of Music was filmed, and live on Croatian TV! Whenever and wherever the girls travel, they love to represent their province, share their music and make new ‘choir friends’ from all over the world.

Last season included all our usual concerts, camps and outreach events – twelve in total. Last year’s community outreach events included raising funds and awareness for: the St. James Music Academy, the Shelter to Home Project, and Camp Sunrise. Our senior choir was invited to perform at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s 100th Anniversary Day of Music in January. In April, all our singers participated in the Vancouver Kiwanis Choral Festival. We were recommended to the provincial level competition – the Performing Arts BC Festival – and won our classes! Our Junior singers in Grades Four to Seven represented our province at the National Festival of Music and were awarded Runner – Up to the province of Ontario. Well done, young singers!

2019 - 2020: As this year is our 15th Anniversary Season, and we have a lot to celebrate! With the outbreak of the Covid-19 Virus Pandemic, we have cancelled all events and rehearsals from March to July. 

  • November 23, 2019 - WinterSong matinee. Our first community outreach event of the season, benefitting Camp Sunrise 
  • December 14, 2019 - Our formal evening concert of winter celebration
  • January 27, 2020 - An evening with Elektra Women's Choir
  • February 8, 2020 - Sing Out! A festival day of sharing and learning with Dr. Adam Con
  • May 23, 2020 - We are the Voices. A 15th Anniversary Gala Concert at the Centennial Theatre - Cancelled
  • June 6, 2020 - SummerSong. Our final concert to celebrate every BCGC member - Cancelled
  • June 28, 2020 - Farewell! A concert to wish our touring singers all good luck at Kathaumixw - Cancelled
  • June 30 - July 5, 2020 - the girls will make their next tour, here on the west coast, to the International Choral Kathaumixw, where we will meet choirs from around the world - Cancelled

2021: will bring our next two-week international tour. The destination will be announced later in the spring. Stay tuned!

2022: is the year that Canada’s choral conductors meet for the biennial conference, called Podium. Choral Canada is our country’s choral organization and Podium is the event when Canadian conductors and composers meet to celebrate Canadian music. In 2022 it will be in British Columbia! We hope to sing our hearts out for Canada!


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