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The Mixed Chorus Tradition

Tradition doesn't seem to carry much weight for western society. In fact, the society is so young and so bent on being "with it" that establishing a tradition which has any hope of lasting is nearly impossible.  

Somewhere along the line, though, in its thirty years, the University of Alberta Mixed Chorus has managed to become a tradition. Toward the end of each winter, in February or March, one comes to look for the Mixed Chorus concert. Later, in April after final exams, again you expect to hear that the Mixed Chorus is singing its songs in any number of towns in Alberta or elsewhere in Western Canada. The solid hours of practising all through winter session are themselves an established tradition within the chorus, and the combination of hard work, fun, travel, teammanship, and finally performing together seems to have impressed itself on the mind of everyone who has ever been a part of the chorus.

Certainly the spirit and the enthusiasm persist long after the members have graduated and gone their several ways. Gordon Clark, who started the Mixed Chorus in 1944 when he was a student in medicine and who was conductor until three years later, travelled to Edmonton from his home in California this winter to help celebrate the group's thirtieth anniversary and to demonstrate that his conducting arm was as good as ever.

Chorus alumni proved they could still carry a tune and eagerly exchanged old memories, often of Richard Eaton, "the Boss" who conducted the chorus for twenty years until his death in 1968. Peggy Eaton is still as much a part of the Mixed Chorus's life as when her husband was conductor. She has gone on practically all the group's tours and has attended all its concerts. In its anniversary concert program this year she wrote, "For twenty years this was his family and though thousands of students passed in and out of Chorus, he never forgot a face and seldom a name." More than anyone else, Richard Eaton set the musical standard of the chorus and determined the group's enthusiastic character. The faces of the Mixed Chorus have changed, there have been two new conductors since Professor Eaton, but the music is as demanding, the quality as high, and the spirit of the singers as joyful as ever.

Published June 1974.

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