Arbutus sings so kids can have their own voice

Arbutus sings so kids can have their own voice

Tim Collins


For Jack Boomer, there’s no sweeter sound than a group of voices in song.

That’s why, 19 years ago, he brought together 15 people to form a new choir and why, nearly two decades later, he’s still directing the Arbutus Singers, a non-auditioned six-part choir in Victoria that now numbers about 70 singers.

While music is at the heart of the choir’s existence, the group has a secondary motivation, namely raising funds for worthy causes.

“The other night we sang at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Sidney and raised more than $7,000 in a single night for a charity in South Sudan. I added it up and we’ve raised about $79,000 for that charity alone over the past 13 years,” said Boomer.

Part of the group’s fundraising success is rooted in its method of operation. They have no paid staff and, instead of paying for rehearsal space, they barter performances for practice and performance venues. Boomer said the method has worked and allowed the group to put almost every dollar they raise toward targeted charities.

“This is such a great program,” said choir member Donna Prelypchon who joined Arbutus two years ago and now finds she is totally committed to the program. “I have always loved singing, but never thought I could do it. Jack and the entire group helped to show me I can, and help my community in the process.”

In another initiative, Arbutus undertook the challenge of bringing the love of singing to elementary school aged children. To that end, Artubus started the ChoirKids program in 2006 to foster fun and a love of music in children. The program was a huge success and continued until 2015 under Arbutus’ control.

But the growing success of the program caused Boomer to reevaluate the delivery model and, in order to allow for the expansion of the program and to avoid duplication of efforts with other community groups, Arbutus approached the Victoria Conservatory of Music (VCM) to take over the administrative and management support and leadership for the program.

“It seemed like such a natural fit. VCM now provides that management and we’ve gotten back to doing what we do pretty well, which is raise money,” said Boomer.

That’s not to say Arbutus is no longer involved in the program. They continue to offer financial support for ChoirKids; raising money by raising their voices in song as they perform fund raising concerts in the community.

The concerts to support ChoirKids will take place at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall, 907 Pandora Ave. on Saturday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 4 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $30 for a family pack.

Tickets are available by calling the Victoria Conservatory of Music at 250-386-5311 or by going to

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