Atlantic Voices celebrates 20 years of East Coast music

By Shelly Donaldson

Margaret Lavictoire knew she had found her second home when she stepped into that first Atlantic Voices choir practice in 2014.

Atlantic Voices: The Newfoundland and Labrador Choir of Ottawa is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a special concert featuring highlights from the choir’s first two decades. Over those 20 years, the choir has become Ottawa’s go-to favourite for East Coast music. The concert is on April 30 at 3 p.m. at Centretown United Church on Bank Street.

“My good friend Pam had joined the Atlantic Voices choir the year before, so I went to her first concert to hear her sing,” she says. “After that, I was hooked! I love East Coast music, and the spirit of the choir was inspirational.”

Lavictoire, who has lived in the Glebe since 2001, joined Atlantic Voices soon after attending that show. And she was just in time to sing in the Stan Rogers tribute concert, held in spring 2015.

“Different songs get you at different times,” says Lavictoire, describing the emotional reaction some songs can draw out. “I was in tears when we first started learning Stan Rogers’ ‘Make and Break Harbour,’ a beautiful song about the end of the fisheries.”

She says performing in the concerts is just one of many aspects of the choir that she finds so enjoyable.

“It was the love of the music that drew me in initially,” Lavictoire says, “but getting to know the other choir members and appreciating the leadership and dedication of the choir’s director, Scott Richardson, takes it to a whole new level—it’s irresistible!”

Even though she grew up south of Ottawa on a dairy farm, Lavictoire has deep ties to Prince Edward Island. Her mother was born on the Island, and she visits aunts, uncles, and cousins who live there as often as she can. She can’t help but share her love of the East Coast and its music with friends.

“Last year, I invited a bunch of people from my fitness group to our Christmas ceilidh, and they were so excited,” Margaret laughs. “They came to the show and had a wonderful time.”

Lavictoire says the secret to the choir’s success is the members’ support and genuine affection for each other, as well the rich repertoire of Newfoundland, Maritime, and Celtic songs.

And the proof is in the pudding. Last fall, Atlantic Voices held its first in-person show since the onset of the pandemic. Lavictoire was at the front door an hour before the show began to take tickets.

“We opened the doors and were shocked to see a huge line-up of people stretching down the sidewalk on Bank Street,” she laughs. “They were there early to get a good seat!”

She snapped a quick photo after about half of the early birds were inside.

“There must have been 60 or 70 people still outside,” Lavictoire says with a smile. “So I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who enjoys the music!”

Shelly Donaldson is a member of Atlantic Voices and a retired public servant.

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