The Amabilis Singers were originally formed in 1980 as The Douglas College Community Choir. In 1989 the singers packed their bags, severed their collegial ties, and became an independent community choir. The group’s West Coast roots served as inspiration for the new name: the Amabilis Fir (also known as the Pacific Silver Fir) is a species indigenous to coastal forests. The botanical name Amabilis means “lovely”, which the choir was quite content to assimilate as a descriptor!
Over its long history, the ensemble has fluctuated in size from well over 120 to its present 65. Although based in New Westminster, its singers faithfully travel from all corners of the Lower Mainland for weekly rehearsals. The choristers represent all walks of life, including accountants, college instructors, teachers, students, IT specialists, government employees, nurses, self-employed entrepreneurs, surveyors, and retirees in search of a rewarding musical challenge. Enthusiastic and eager to learn all types of music, this group of singers has, from its inception, always demonstrated a very special spirit of camaraderie and joie de vivre that not even the most difficult music can stifle!
Upon the retirement of Founder/Director Diane Loomer in 1996, Anne Wilson Unger led the Amabilis Singers for a happy decade. In 2006 Ramona Luengen was named Artistic Director, ushering in a renewed communal effort to consistently improve and undertake more challenging works.
The Amabilis Singers have performed music of many musical periods and styles, including large works such as Mozart’s Requiem (2012), Carmina Burana, in celebration of the group’s 30th anniversary in 2011, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem (2009) with the Shaughnessy Heights United Church Choir, as well as everything in between – from Bach to Lauridsen, Handel to Whitacre, and Rachmaninoff to Ešenvalds.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience was our tour to Italy in the exceedingly hot summer of 2015. Performance venues included the Pantheon in Rome, the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Duomo d’Orvieto, Montecatini Thermal Baths, Abbazio di Sant’Antimo, Santa Maria in Portico Fontegiusta in Siena, and Florence’s Piazzale Michelangelo – all breathtakingly beautiful and humbling.
In the Spring of 2017, we sang James Whitbourne’s stunning Luminosity for choir, viola, organ, tanpura and tam-tam in the glorious acoustic of Vancouver’s Holy Rosary Cathedral, and were deeply rewarded.
Our most recent and memorable highlight was Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, which we performed with our own Ingrid Verseveldt and renowned Canadian pianist Jane Coop in April 2018. We had delved deep into the text, music and structure; we had built our stamina to meet the demands of this remarkable work; we had plied and cajoled our mouths and tongues around the German language with the greatest of care and effort; and we pulled off perhaps the most nuanced and expressive singing of our lives. Our hearts were full, our souls transported, and we were profoundly reminded why it is we sing as a choir.
We now look forward to an exciting year ahead as we celebrate 40 wonderful years of Amabilis!