The Sooke Community Choir has something special going on. It went from 23 members to 60 in the space of one year. What that is due to, no one can quite figure out, but it just might have something to do with Bruce Ruddell.
Ruddell comes to the choir via Salt Spring Island and Victoria. After years of running Tuned Air on Salt Spring he moved to Victoria where he took on writing long projects in seclusion. He saw an advertisement for a substitute conductor on the BC Choral website and took hold of the reins of the Sooke Community Choir.
“It felt good to be back conducting and be with these people,” he said. “They are terrific people.”
In June of last year he was asked to become the Artistic Director and he succumbed to the call.
“You just can’t conduct and leave, it’s hands-on,” he said.
The choir had a church venue for their performances for years and Ruddell thought it was time to move into what he calls, “that beautiful hall,” the Sooke Community Hall. It’s the character of the hall that he loves, in fact the character evident in all those types of halls all across Canada. The Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra and the community choir are both painting and upgrading the hall.
So back to why the choir is exploding with new singers…
“I just love what I do, it’s the love of making music,” Ruddell said.
He said all these singers just started arriving.
“I run it the same as a professional business. We’re doing some really complex music.”
Sally Titchkosky, president of the Sooke Community Choir, said it’s a pretty phenomenal change in the choir, mostly due to Ruddell’s personality and talent.
“We enjoy every rehearsal, we work hard and there’s tons of laughter. Bruce has a way of drawing out the best from each singer.”
Another reason for the surge in popularity might be the choir performance in December where he read about Sooke history from Maywell Wickheim’s book, Bites, Bulls & Bullets.
So, his 60 singers are busy rehearsing for a set of performances in Shirley and Sooke.
John Lennon’s iconic song, In My Life will be a feature song at the show called In My Life; Songs of Rivers and Blackbirds.
There are two brilliant arrangements by Canadian arranger Donald Patriquin, Moses Hogan’s famous work, Steal Away and the classic folk song The Midnight Special backed by the choir’s very own band. The band features Bob Whittet on double bass, David Cunningham; electric guitar, Kathy Russell; piano, Janet Renfroe on mandolin, Marg Melville on accordion, Jacquetta Nisbet on mouth harp, Linda James; tambourine and the choir’s artistic director Bruce Ruddell on acoustic guitar.
“You will want to brush up on the Midnight Special ‘cause you’ll be expected to sing out the chorus! And who knows, after you’ve heard yourself sing, you may want to join next season! The concert will also feature Sooke’s very own, highly accomplished pianist Kathy Russell. She will move you with her solo performance of the academy award winning music from The Colour Purple, said Ruddell. “If this show sounds like it’ll be too much fun, well, it will be. Believe me!”
Ruddell said the choir wanted to go on tour and not knowing his connection, they lined up a performance at the All Saints By The Sea church on Salt Spring Island. Then they move onwards to Port Renfrew to perform in the coming weeks.
“Of course In My Life will be in Sooke for everyone to catch. The choir is anticipating big crowds and so they have scheduled three performances in our historic and beautifully resonant community hall,” said Ruddell.
Soon the choir will have in their possession a beautiful grand piano, a gift from a woman in Victoria. It will be put into the community hall and hopefully it will draw other groups into the hall to use it.
Friday, May 8 at 8 p.m. – Sooke Community Hall
Saturday May 9 at 8 p.m.– Sooke Community Hall
Sunday May 10 at 2 p.m. – Sooke Community Hall
Saturday May 17 at 2:30 p.m. on Sunny Saltspring Island
Tickets for Salt Spring are available at the door. Tickets for all Sooke concerts available at The Stick, The Reading Room, Shoppers or at the door.