The Centennial Choir of Cornwall had its beginning in the A Cappella Choir of Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School. Originally an all-female choir, interested male students were invited to join the choir in the early 1960s. The choir had enjoyed a long history at CCVS, and in 1962 was under the direction of W. Bennett Brown. As the music teacher at CCVS, his responsibilities included teaching instrumental music and conducting the school band, but his heart was in choral music. An enthusiast of a cappella choral singing and music memorization, he provided a great training ground for young singers. Despite all practices being outside school hours, the choir flourished.
When Mr. Brown left the school in 1963, the choir was adrift. A glee club was formed under the direction of teacher Antonia Phillips, but was short-lived. Not wanting the choir to fold completely, a group of interested student singers found a way to continue singing together. Ned Hanson, choral director at Trinity Anglican Church, was asked to give direction a try. The choir sang together as the Edgar Shaw Hanson Singers for a couple of years, with some Trinity Church Choir members joining their ranks.
When Ned left Cornwall, a long-time choir member from the CCVS choir, R. Brian McCartney, was encouraged to take over as director. As a name change was necessary, they celebrated Canada’s centennial by becoming the Centennial Choir of Cornwall.
Brian guided the choir for many years through local festivals, Toronto & Ottawa competitions, and in 1976 the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod in Wales. The trips to Wales established many friendships with the Trelawnyd Male Voice Choir which have lasted to this day.
In the 20 years following Brian’s departure, the choir enjoyed a succession of directors, including choir members Dr. Archie McPhee and John Kroon as joint directors, Harold Isaacs, Raymond Lacroix, Peter Willsher and David Irwin. When David decided to move on, then assistant director, Lisa Zeran, took the lead. Lisa has now enjoyed over 28 years as director, and the choir has grown in size during that time.
Over the years, some 500 voices have sung with the choir—mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, siblings and whole families. There are even two original CCVS choir members currently singing with the choir. The choir age range, appearance and sound can change from year to year, but the enjoyment we get from choral singing does not change. We keep coming back for more!