Jon Washburn, conductor

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About the Vancouver Chamber Choir

The Vancouver Chamber Choir is Canada's outstanding professional vocal ensemble. Based on the Pacific Coast in British Columbia, conductor Jon Washburn and his twenty singers are noted for their diverse repertoire and performing excellence. The ACDA Choral Journal has declared the Vancouver Chamber Choir to be "as fine a vocal chamber group as any in the world today." In 1998, the Vancouver Chamber Choir and Jon Washburn won the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence for their outstanding contribution to the choral art. Mr. Washburn and the Choir were honoured with two awards at the 2000 Chorus America Conference, including the prestigious Louis Botto award, given in recognition of Washburn's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit in the development of a professional choral ensemble of exceptional quality.

The Choir impresses audiences with the depth and range of its repertoire and interpretive skills. Their concerts might encompass a range of music, from chant to folksong, traditional to avant-garde, a cappella to orchestra, to jazz trio. Jon Washburn is noted for devising innovative and fascinating programmes, and unearthing hidden choral treasures. The singers, who delight in acquiring foreign language skills, have thus sung in over 40 languages. A leading advocate of Canadian music and composers, the Choir has commissioned and premiered nearly 300 new choral works in the last 45 years.

The Vancouver Chamber Choir has been performing at home and across Canada since its formation in 1971 by conductor Jon Washburn. The ensemble has gained international distinction through tours to the United States, China, Hong Kong, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

In 1994, they sang in South Korea and Japan, where they were awarded gold medals and the overall Grand Prize in the 11th Takarazuka International Chamber Chorus Competition. During the summer of 1997, the Choir completed a highly successful tour of Germany, France, and the Czech Republic. In March 1999, they were featured guests at the National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association, where they performed to an audience of 6,000 of their peers.

During the 2002-2003 concert season, the Choir performed in Latin America's most prestigious festival, Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato, Mexico, and in the 2002 Taipei International Choral Festival. In 2004, the Choir received an invitation to participate in the Tokyo International Performing Arts Festival.

In 2009 the choir returned to Taiwan and Japan for a concert tour which included a private performance for Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan, a joint performance with the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus and a sold-out performance at the National Theatre and Concert Hall in Taipei.

In addition to touring and a busy season of concerts, broadcasts, and recording in Vancouver, the Choir offers an annual array of educational programmes: the National Conductors' Symposium for advanced choral conductors, Interplay workshops for choral composers, Focus! for college and university music students, OnSite for elementary and secondary schools, the biennial Young Composers' Competition, and various on-tour residencies and workshops.

The Vancouver Chamber Choir sings frequently with distinguished artists and ensembles such as The King's Singers and Chanticleer, the Stockholm and Moscow Chamber Choirs; conductors Eric Ericson, Frieder Bernius, Tõnu Kaljuste and Andrew Litton; singers Ben Heppner, Maureen Forrester, and Ian Partridge; guitarist Paco Peña; the Canadian Brass, Ancient Cultures, and the Turtle Island String Quartet; and many others. They can be heard on CBC radio in Canada and have been broadcast on National Public Radio's The First Art in the United States. They have released over 40 recordings and CDs, including several devoted to Canadian composers such as R. Murray Schafer, Imant Raminsh, Stephen Chatman, Healey Willan, and Jon Washburn.


The Vancouver Chamber Choir is a fully professional choir of 20 experienced, well-trained singers. The key activities of the Choir include a subscription series that is unique in Vancouver, extensive touring in Canada and abroad, broadcasting live concerts on the CBC, recording, commissioning and premiering new choral compositions, and presenting four to five educational programs throughout each season. The Choir demands a major commitment of time and needs to be the singers' top priority.

The Vancouver Chamber Choir usually rehearses on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. A list of substitute singers is maintained; these people may also be used to augment the Choir if a larger group is needed.

Auditions are held periodically throughout the season. An audition lasts approximately one half hour and singers will be required to sing three or four pieces in different styles and languages; there will also be an interview with Jon Washburn. A formal résumé is welcomed. Singers are expected to provide their own accompanist for the audition.

For more information or to book an audition please