Music is one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind. It can be a conduit to channel our innermost feelings, and when we struggle to bring our thoughts into words, music can be the voice that speaks for us. The most significant aspect of the gift of music is that it gives us an exemplary way to worship God. A way that is prescribed by God, as many references in the Scriptures will show. Making music on instruments and singing God’s praises has been used throughout history. Amazingly, singing is something God Himself also engages in, as noted in the last line of Zephaniah 3:17, “He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Christian forms of musical worship vary, but one perennial favourite has been the forming of groups of like-minded people joining their voices in song. Cheryl Harder has for the past 12 years been the manager of one such group now known as The Pacific Voices – a Family of Choirs, formerly the Pacific Mennonite Children’s Choir. Started in 1978 under the leadership of Nancy Dyck, this choral musical group has endeared itself to many audiences in the Fraser Valley and beyond. Visits to the groups’ videos on YouTube, as well as their social media pages, attest to a high level of dedication and musical excellence.
Harder excitedly shared that although the number of children (aged 8-18) in the choir hovered around the 45 mark for many years, substantial growth has occurred over the last few seasons. The choir has expanded to 150 plus members, which includes singers as young as five, young men with changed voices, and those aged 25 plus who are part of a project-based adult choir. “This growth is evidence of God’s perfect timing. As staff and board, we pray for wisdom to follow God’s leading.”
What started out as a predominately Mennonite endeavour 45 years ago now includes members from other denominations, backgrounds and ethnicities. The divisions meet at Clearbrook MB church in Abbotsford once a week throughout the school year, with students travelling from Chilliwack through Surrey to attend.
Each ensemble receives age-related training on developing healthy vocal tone, singing in both unison and with harmonies, and choreography, to name a few things taught. The leadership includes a Board of Directors, Artistic Director Sonja Hindmarsh, additional conductors, accompanists, choreographers and manager.
To cover the operational budget, in addition to tuition, the choir relies on income from fundraisers, concert revenue, and donors. Pacific Voices welcomes and encourages the support of individual and business donors. By investing in the lives of children, youth and adults, our organization can continue to provide high-quality and life-enriching music programs, which ultimately will allow the singers to pursue musical excellence!
As a non-profit society in the province of British Columbia, the Pacific Voices Society is recognized by Revenue Canada as a charitable organization. Income Tax Receipts for gifts and charitable donations can be issued for any amount over $20.
Last July, the choir performed at the Pacific International Choral Festival in Eugene, Oregon and was the only faith-based group in attendance. The choristers were set apart from the other groups, not only because of the songs they performed but by the joy they emanated while singing. One of the songs they sang was “I Can Only Imagine,” with a clear reference to meeting Jesus Christ for the first time in Heaven. The difference between Pacific Voices versus other groups did not go unnoticed by the audience, as one person commented, “There was extra light and energy in their eyes and faces when they sang!”
In July of next year, a delegation of 25 to 30 singers aged 12-25 will be attending the World Choir Games in Auckland, New Zealand, with choirs from around the world. This will provide an excellent opportunity for the singers to learn and grow in their skills, build an even stronger community, and bring exposure to the Pacific Voices in an unparalleled way. Such opportunities also allow for outreach to share the gospel, albeit subtly, as they remain “committed to giving God all the praise and glory, for all that he has and continues to do.”
In the meantime, Harder, Hindmarsh and the team are busy preparing for the Christmas season, with several concerts in the works. The Pacific Voices Annual Christmas Concert ‘Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah’ will be on Saturday, December 9, at 2 pm and 7 pm, with all 150 singers performing alongside members of the MEI concert band and drumline at Central Heights Church in Abbotsford. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.ca
The Resonate & Summit divisions will then be special guests for Songs Strings & Steps ‘A Symphony of Christmas’ led by Calvin Dyck on December 22 and 23. Tickets are also available on Eventbrite.
Auditions to join one of the Pacific Voices divisions are held three times a year, with the next one being in January 2024. Contact Cheryl Harder if you have any questions, email@example.com.