Calling all tenors and basses

By Janice Manchee

Rideau Chorale is gearing up for its eighth season. For two years, COVID-related protocols have been in place and, although the executive will continue to monitor the situation, it looks like precautions can finally be eased.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t new and continuing challenges. One that Rideau Chorale faces is common for choirs: the need for more tenor and bass voices.

Those with lower voices are generally, of course, men. We know that men sing. As soloists, in rock and roll, country, classical and other genres, but also together with other men.

Consider the more than one hundred male choirs in Wales, and AKORD, Ottawa’s own all-male Ukrainian choir. Add to that the essential role male voices play in African choral music. And then there’s Australia’s Spooky Men’s Chorale, which sings about power tools and beards.

Still every director of mixed choirs will tell you that tenors and basses must be actively recruited. Why?

The Internet, as always, provides a plethora of suggestions, from thoughtful to offensive. Men prefer to learn in private. Men like to be in control. Men can be intimidated by a roomful of sopranos and altos (i.e., women). Men think choirs aren’t masculine. Men find the arts vague. Men prefer to hang out with other men.

But none of these suggestions resonated for Yves Menard, a recent addition to Rideau Chorale’s tenor section.

“I’ve been taking singing lessons for a couple of years, and I’ve been the lead singer in a Cajun band,” he says, “but I wanted to join a choir to challenge my singing ability in a group setting.”

Many scientific studies have underlined that singing with others is good for longevity, good health and stress reduction. It increases oxygenation and lung capacity. It exercises major muscle groups in the upper body and improves posture.

Choir singing also has a strong impact on well-being and mental health. It creates a sense of community, and members find friendship. Choirs have even been known to ignite the occasional romance.

As well, it’s great to feel needed, and deeper voices are. They add resonance and richness to the music. And singers are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment.

“I’ve learned a tonne,” says Menard. “I’ve learned a lot about keys, intervals, dynamics and chord structure. And then there are the languages. I’ve sung in English, German and Italian this term.”

Unlike some community choirs, Rideau Chorale is an auditioned choir. It is committed to the musical development of its members, the pursuit of artistic excellence and the presentation of beautiful music to the Ottawa community. The choir believes everyone can and should sing, but to produce the excellence sought, members must have certain abilities.

The audition process is not onerous. Rideau Chorale’s music director checks the singer’s ear by asking them to match some musical pitches and also listens to a prepared piece that shows their vocal range and level of musical training. Singers should be able to read music. The director will chat with the singer about the level of commitment required in at-home practice and preparation. Choir experience is an asset, but not necessary.

Rideau Chorale’s next concert, Gloria! A Christmas Concert takes place on December3, 2022, and features John Rutter’s 1974 work Gloria complemented by other well-known and less familiar Christmas pieces (including some audience participation). The concert will also include a premiere of Rideau Carol by local composer David Rain.

Rideau Chorale invites and welcomes tenors and basses who would like to audition.

“If you want a challenge and to share music with some great people,” adds Menard, “Rideau Chorale is for you.”

Up-coming auditions take place in September and can be requested via

Janice Manchee sings tenor with Rideau Chorale. Information about Rideau Chorale and its virtual and upcoming performances can be found at Tickets are available at

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