Music has always been a part of Lilian Howell’s life.
The 76-year-old started singing around the piano at age three and kept with it on and off for many years.
But in 2004, Howell was going through retirement and looking for a way to get back into singing part harmony. She found that with The Newcombe Singers — Victoria’s oldest mixed community choir singing in four-part harmony.
“You have to stay so focused on what you’re doing that you begin to feel the joy of the music and hope you can project that onto the rest of the people sitting in front of you,” said Howell. “It’s that collegial feel of being part of a group producing sound.”
The Newcombe Singers formed in 1957 when members of three B.C. civil service unions began an informal choir to provide musical entertainment for colleagues and the general public during the Christmas season.
Led by their first conductor Bob Kroeger, the choir performed in the rotunda of the B.C. legislature, growing their musical activities during the next three years to formalize into the Newcombe Glee Club, named for the auditorium they performed in. The permanent name wasn’t chosen until 1975.
Today, the choir is still going strong, with 40 to 50 singers consisting of people who are mainly retired throughout the region.
With the guidance of conductor Peter Dent, the group meets once a week to practice for their two main concerts every year — one in the spring and another at Christmas. Their repertoire is mainly classical masterpieces, with a good mix of modern and jazz classics.
According to Howell, the group also entertains audiences at seniors centres, lodges, hospitals and community venues throughout the region, and have done a variety of performances in Canada and abroad, including Hong Kong, Germany and Austria.
But the choir is always looking for new members, said Howell, noting the singing is social, joyful and good for the brain. It’s also a great way to make new friends.
“We are always up for a bit of fun outside of choir time,” said Howell with a chuckle. “There’s definitely a bit of socializing.”
Prospective members are asked to join The Newcombe Singers on Tuesday, Jan. 3 at St. Mary the Virgin Church, 1701 Elgin Rd. Tenors and basses are especially required in the non-auditioned choir where sight-reading is helpful, but not a requirement.
Registration begins at 7 p.m. and rehearsal starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information visit newcombesingers.com.