Rideau Chorale has big news
Photo: Kevin Reeves
by Janice Manchee
Kevin Reeves, the new music director of Rideau Chorale, brings creativity and a range of music skills and experience.
Rideau Chorale has big news: Kevin Reeves is Rideau Chorale’s new music director.
Choirs are the shared creation of their members and their music directors. Each community of singers and each professional choral leader bring unique qualities to the music and the sound. It’s big news when change occurs.
“Kevin is a special artist in the Ottawa community,” says Rideau Chorale’s secretary Hilary Esmonde-White. “He’s not only highly experienced and respected as a choral leader and musician, but he’s a cartoonist, filmmaker and general all-round creative mind.”
Reeves was born in North Bay and moved with his family to Ottawa in 1961. He was surrounded by music – his mother was a piano teacher and his father was a singer, although not formally trained. He took up the piano and later the organ. And he began singing with St. Matthew’s Church Choir in the Glebe.
By the 1980s, Kevin, a tenor, was singing professionally, including in a production of Stratford’s Beggar’s Opera, one of 32 young singers chosen from across Canada. He moved to Toronto for 10 years but returned to Ottawa in 1992 to make it his home base.
Two years later, he returned to St. Matthew’s Church to try something new – conducting – and he spent a season as the church’s interim music director. During his tenure, he produced several concerts, including the Messiah.
“When I left St. Matthew’s, I had no idea what to do next,” says Reeves. “Then Kathryn Palmer, our soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah, approached me.”
She told Reeves he simply couldn’t give up conducting. He was too good at it.
Reeves took her advice to heart and one evening at the Glebe’s Royal Oak, he asked a group of equally talented friends if they wanted to form a chamber choir. They said yes and others followed, and the group went on to become one of Ottawa’s best performing ensembles, Seventeen Voyces.
Reeves didn’t stop there. He’s worked with a wide variety of Ottawa-based groups, including the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir and the Ottawa Choral Society. He also prepared choirs for guest conductors at the National Arts Centre and other venues. He himself has conducted at the NAC, including the time when Boris Brott simply handed him the baton.
Then there are the concerts he’s produced, doing everything from developing the repertoire, to promoting the event in writing and interviews, to “bartering and stealing,” to physically setting up the venue. This included a four-city tour for a youth choir from Tampere, Finland. One of their stops was CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, where they were featured in a national broadcast.
And, of course, there’s the composing. From his Vision of the Gitche Manitou for counter-tenor Daniel Taylor, to the whimsical The Humpty-Dumpty Blues, to the comic opera Nosferatu, Reeves has combined his musical knowledge, creativity and wit to the delight of singers and audiences.
This is not to mention his music-themed movies, such as the recent Ghost of Beethoven about a little girl who meets the famous composer, and cartoon books, such as The Composers: A Hystery of Music.
Reeves is looking forward to his new challenge with Rideau Chorale.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with Rideau Chorale for its Haydn/Mozart concert this past spring,” he says. “The enthusiasm and love of the music was evident the entire evening.”
The feeling is mutual.
“We are really excited to have Kevin as our new music director,” says Esmonde-White. “I can’t wait to see what he’ll have us do and how he’ll nurture the growth of the choir.”
Information about Rideau Chorale and its virtual and upcoming performances can be found at rideauchorale.com.
Janice Manchee is the chair of Rideau Chorale and sings tenor.