Five years after co-founding Elektra Women’s Choir, Diane Loomer, already an experienced choral conductor with three choirs under her belt and significant choral festival experience, founded Chor Leoni Men’s Choir in 1992. She began by finding recordings of some of the world’s best men’s choirs (including Sweden’s Orphei Drängar and Finland’s YL Male Voice Choir), studied the repertoire they sang and the sound they produced, and set herself to gathering enough talented singers to mount a concert in November 1992. In its first year, CL sang two concerts – a fall concert in November and a “Summer Solstice Serenade” in June at the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival’s tent. With talented singers and excellent repertoire, Diane’s vision of creating a world class men’s choir in Vancouver began to take shape.
In 1993, Chor Leoni presented its first Remembrance Day concert, titled “Songs of War and Peace.” The 1994 Summer Solstice concert at Bard on the Beach mixed in some popular tunes and the event began to grow. By the 1994 fall concert, “Songs of War and Peace II”, the choir had attracted a large following and became the choir’s first sold out concert. Also that year, for the first time a male choir was awarded first place in the CBC National Choral Competition for Amateur Choirs – and it was Chor Leoni. This was not the only award CL garnered in its early years; it won a prize for Best Performance of a Canadian Work, the beginning of a long tradition of performing, commissioning and promoting Canadian choral music. In the spring of 1995, the choir recorded its first CD, Songs of War and Peace.
The 1995-1996 season saw the introduction of the first Christmas and “serious spring” concerts; these have become staples in the choir’s seasonal calendar. The first of many collaborations with some of Vancouver’s finest ensembles began with a performance of Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sergiu Commissiona in the spring of 1996. Later that year, CL made its first early morning appearance at the CBC’s BC Food Bank Day on Radio 1, thereby introducing the choir to a province-wide audience. These accomplishments within the first five years of Chor Leoni’s history speak to the vigour with which Diane and the men pursued her original vision.
Much more to come!