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Say It with Music:

Kelly Walker headlines Stratford Concert Choir’s gala fundraiser


The spirit of Valentine’s Day will linger for a few days and set the mood for the Stratford Concert Choir’s February 18 gala fundraising dinner, Say It with Music.  The evening will feature Stratford musician Kelly Walker with a performance aptly called With a Song in My Heart.

Walker and his husband, Ray Harsant, are well known in Stratford for lending their names to worthy causes. “We are so grateful that Kelly and Ray will be supporting the concert choir at this event,” said chorister Lynda McGregor, one of the fundraiser organizers. Walker will perform a selection of love songs and ballads, some of them original compositions, some of them sing-alongs, and all of them curated from a lifetime love of music. 

“From the day I was born I’ve had a piano. I started taking piano lessons at four,” said Walker. He was surrounded by relatives who nurtured his talent, often gathering around the piano after supper to sing.  “It was a musical life that I inherited,” he said. He also sang in elementary school choirs and, at the tender age of 12, was an organist and choir director.

Walker’s adult life has followed a circuitous path. He has been a Dominican friar, a parish priest, a motivational speaker and a best-selling author, to name a few of his pursuits. Through all of it, music has been his constant companion and sometimes his vocation.


When he left the religious life, he performed and toured with Irish singer and harpist, Mary O’Hara. He is also a recording artist who has graced many stages in Canada and abroad. “One article about me in the 80s said that music is the golden thread of my life, and it really is,” he said.

“We are thrilled that Kelly will be sharing his musical gifts with us,” said Lynda McGregor. The fundraiser will be held at the Arden Park Hotel and will include a buffet dinner and silent auction. “I love that he has chosen the theme “With a Song in My Heart”,” said McGregor. “It’s personal to him but also reflective of everyone in the choir.”

See EVENTS page for tickets.



A big welcome to all choristers past, present and future! As we approach the start of our choral season, I hope you are as excited as I am to sing in our first full concert season since December 2019.

It’s been a busy summer for all committees of the Board of Directors. Stéphane has been working with the Repertoire and Development Committee to include both familiar and new music for our 2022–2023 season. Auditions of new members and soloists for upcoming concerts have occurred. New music is being prepared for distribution. News of Stéphane as our new Artistic Director has been released. New ticketing and donation platforms have been researched. We are ready!

Sheila Holloway

Stratford Concert Choir Breathes New Life into Handel’s Messiah


The Stratford Concert Choir (SCC) officially launched the festive season last Saturday evening with a memorable performance of Handel’s Messiah. An enthusiastic audience of more than 300 people was on hand at Avondale United Church to watch the choir breathe new life into this familiar classic.

“It’s always a high when we sing the Messiah,” said Dianne Gaffney, a seasoned veteran who has been a member of the SCC for 18 years. “We try to do our very best in the performance, but this was a particular high point in our time as a choir.”

This was the first concert for the SCC’s new artistic director Stéphane Potvin who taught choristers a new approach to Handel’s well-known oratorio, “We’ve worked hard over the last months, trying out new musical ideas and a different way of singing Messiah,” said Potvin. He encouraged the singers to think about the flow of the whole piece and the story they were telling. “For people to get used to my ideas and my way of working is going to take some time but I think this was a very good first step towards that.”

“It absolutely differed for us,” said Gaffney. “His approach to the Messiah is more textured. He really puts a lot of emphasis on a greater range of dynamics, so not over singing certain parts. That allows the music to really shine through,” she said, “It was a lot of work, but I think it was well worth it. Stephane, in a short period of time, has taken us to the next level.”

Potvin noticed some nervousness among choir members for the first part of the concert but, as the evening unfolded, he was rewarded with what he calls a few “wow moments”. “There was that moment where the choir bloomed and the sound just opened up, and I thought, whoa, okay, this was great,” he said, “I had shivers up my spine during the last movement.”

The audience was equally impressed, “It’s certainly the best one I’ve seen,” said Mary Louise Laberge, who has watched the SCC sing Messiah 15 times. “The calibre has increased considerably,” she said. “The choir focussed on what they do best and that is to sing. There were no theatrics coming off the stage. It was all about the voices. I found it clearer, less emotional. They left that to us, to respond to the words, to the story.”

“It was a joyful experience,” said Brad Stager, a former concertgoer who is now part of the SCC’s bass section. This was his first time singing Messiah, music that he loves. “I’m just so happy that I had a chance to perform it,” he said, “I walked out of the venue on a high.” 


Christine Dowdell

Stratford Concert Choir Board of Directors

Director of Communication and Marketing 

Stratford Concert Choir Announces New Artistic Director

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