© Submitted photo
The Crescent Collegiate girls choir performed in Ottawa for the Unisong Choral Festival earlier this summer. Members of the choir, in no particular order, are — Brenton, Amber Brenton, Celeste Burry, Gracie Dawe, Jessica Dobbin, Melanie Dominie, Sarah George, Jesse Hann, Hannah Harnum, Taylor Harnum, Heather Higdon, Skye Johnson, Sarah Knight, Morgan Lahey, Shae-Lynn Lahey, Morgan Ledrew, Emily Manning, Jessica McCarthy, Mackenzie Mercer, Taylor Moore, Julia Pollett-Nurse, Stacey Power, Kayla Pretty, Kelsey Sheppard, Heidi Smith, Mackenzie Smith and choral instructor Robert Colbourne. Missing from photo — chaperones Lori Bishop and school principal Michelle Chislett Lahey.
Taking a group of 25 teenage girls to Ottawa would be difficult for some teachers. But Robert Colbourne, music teacher at Crescent Collegiate in Blaketown, was up for the challenge.
Colbourne not only teaches the music classes at the Grade 7-12 school, but also conducts the choirs. More specifically, he conducted the 25-member girls' choir that attended the Unisong Choral Festival 2013 in our nation’s capital June 28 to July 1.
Crescent was the only Newfoundland choir in attendance at this year’s event, which included five days of “educational” experiences and non-stop learning, according to Colbourne.
“The hard work our choir put into the week was captured in seven performances and 25 hours of rehearsal in four days, which resulted in 25 very tired girls,” he exclaimed.
All choirs participating in the festival performed in their own events until Canada Day, when some 500 singers — including the Crescent group — teamed up to perform a free concert of Canadian music at the National Arts Centre Theatre.
Beaumont Hamel remembered
Colbourne said the most "spectacular" part of their visit was performing at the National War Memorial on the anniversary of Beaumont Hamel, which was not part of the festival.
Every year Newfoundlanders commemorate the 1st Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment in the Battle of the Somme at Beaumont Hamel in France. The Blue Puttees, as they were known, were decimated by fierce German resistance, with less than 70 soldiers answering roll call the next day.
The choir performed the song, “Blue Puttees,” a song depicting the result of the horrendous battle.
“There was hardly a dry eye in the (house),” Colbourne said, noting most in attendance were Newfoundlanders.
They also performed with Atlantic Voices adult choir — a choir that bases their performances off Newfoundland, Maritime, and Celtic songs and music — to since the Ode to Newfoundland and O Canada.
He explains that it was an important part of the trip and was something the girls will remember for a long time.
A hefty expense
Colbourne said the trip for the 25 girls and three chaperons — Colbourne, Lori Bishop and school principal Michelle Chislett Lahey — cost some $50,000.
The group put a strong effort into their fundraising with recycling, dinner sales, an auction, private donations and parental contributions.
“The girls received two 26-foot long U-Haul trucks of recyclables from Bull Arm construction site with around $4,000,” Colbourne explained, thanking the workers for their donation. “The choir had to go through it and sort it themselves.”
They also received corporate sponsorship from Vale and a youth organization grant worth $4,000 from the provincial government.
“The entire community was behind this project from the get-go to see Crescent Collegiate represent Newfoundland and Labrador on the national stage,” Colbourne said.
He also believes the girls have made everlasting friendships.
“This was a learning experience, not a vacation,” Colbourne noted. “It was very educational.”