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Nelson Boschman Trio Feature Image


Voices in Sharing

If you are a fan of the West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir or The Nelson Boschman Trio, you may be aware that these musicians were part of a unique project that supported Communitas – or MCC Supportive Care Services (MCC SCS), as it was known back in the 90s.

Olympus Digital Camera
the West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir

It began with a conversation over dinner. Celebrated soprano, Edith Wiens, accompanist and then TWU professor Betty Suderman, and Steve Thiessen, who was then the executive director of MCC SCS, were discussing ways to support the organization. Edith and Betty offered to donate their considerable talents for a Christmas album that could be sold to raise funds.  Betty suggested collaborating with composer Larry Nickel and conductor Tony Funk and their newly formed West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir.

Carols For The Infant King Album Cover
Carols for the Infant King was the first recording for Infant King Records

And so it was that Infant King Records was born and their first recording, Carols for the Infant King, came to be.

The success of that recording led Communitas to purchase the rights to the 1991 West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir (WCMCC) release, Songs My Father Taught Me, and began a collaboration with the choir over the next decade and a half, with thirteen releases from the choir in total. Some of these recordings featured renowned artists, most notably Canadian tenors Ben Heppner and Colin Balzer, singers from Musica Intima, the Phoenix Chamber Choir, Vancouver Cantata Singers and Valley Festival Singers, as well as violinist and conductor Calvin Dyck.

Conductor Tony Funk

Having these extraordinary artists participate in these recordings was remarkable but Funk says the choir itself was also extraordinary.

“These are singers who had been singing since childhood, it’s in their DNA, you just can’t teach that,” he recalls.

But it was as much about their passion for the projects as it was their considerable skill. The choir members were deeply committed to giving their voices to projects that support work that gives voice to those who are often voiceless.

“This wasn’t just another ‘gig’”, he says. “We all had this belief in music as a language in and of itself, we believed in the work of Communitas and we poured that belief system into the music. The choir members felt strongly about the work that Communitas does.”

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Composer and conductor, Larry Nickel

Nickel agrees that this was a labour of love for all who were involved.

“No-one got paid – that was the bottom line,” Nickel says. “The thought of contributing to a good cause was motivation for everyone.  Ben Heppner sang with us – for nothing! – and he gets paid thousands of dollars for a single gig. Looking back on it now, it’s amazing what happened.”

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Conductor and violinst, Calvin Dyck

Violinist Calvin Dyck also participated on several of these recordings, which he calls “musical highlights.”

“There was a special feeling in the room when we recorded,” he says. “It was a combination of sacred space, good will and camaraderie that is rarely achieved in the professional arts world.”

The album One Small Child was nominated for a Shai Award as best Instrumental Album and Best Seasonal Album in 2005. His experience was so positive that he proposed a wholly instrumental project to Thiessen, who embraced it. Dyck went on to do four recordings with IKR.

“This union of arts and charity seems to me to be wholly Christian, and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to be part of these projects,” Calvin says.

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The Nelson Boschman Trio plays at a CD release concert

Other IKR albums were recorded with jazz pianist Nelson Boschman and his trio, expanding the IKR repertoire. Boschman, who taught at Columbia Bible College’s Worship Arts department with Funk, has always valued opportunities to work with musicians on projects that inspire. The trio’s recording of Keeping Time Vol. 2 received a nomination from the Gospel Music Association’s Covenant Awards for Jazz/Blues Album of the Year.

“It’s humbling and gratifying to have been given an opportunity to partner with Communitas. Like most musicians, I place a high value on collaboration,” he says. “Bringing artistic endeavours together with supportive care is such a brilliant way to extend the table to others, to widen the circle of both awareness and assistance.”

Gemma Cathy Hardy And Karin Dart
Cathy Hardy and Karin Dart of gemma

Among the final recordings of the IKR label were the Taize worship CDs by gemma with Cathy Hardy and Karin Dart. These recordings came out of an established musical relationship; Dart and Hardy had been leading Taize services together in the Fraser Valley. As this relationship grew, a desire to share this music with others arose. It seemed a perfect fit to combine this worshipful music with the opportunity to support the work of Communitas.

“Taize music carries a healing quality and fit with the beautiful values of Communitas,” Hardy says.

Dart, who also works as a spiritual director, agrees.

“The vision of Communitas (to be places of belonging, growth and contribution) matched my own vision and experience of working with people living with deep life challenges,” she says.

Some of their songs went on to be nominated for several awards by the Gospel Music Association of Canada and their song Alleluia, Alleluia (Psalm 84) won the Song of the Year (Classical/Traditional) in 2009.

During its lifetime, IKR contributed more than $500,000 (Net) for Communitas. While IKR is no longer actively producing music, this musical legacy is a rich part of Communitas’ history and we are grateful for all the outstanding musicians who gave of their time and talents to make this possible.

Listen to a West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir recording when you explore our 50th anniversary timeline!

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