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Carbonear music teacher joins forces with former pupil for merged choir at Kiwanis festival

Anne Whelan (right) and Robert Colbourne have a long history together and have come “full circle” in their musical careers, teaming up to merge their choirs for this year’s Kiwanis Music Festival.
Anne Whelan (right) and Robert Colbourne have a long history together and have come “full circle” in their musical careers, teaming up to merge their choirs for this year’s Kiwanis Music Festival. - Submitted

CARBONEAR, NL — A special connection between two teachers led to a unique experience at a recent Kiwanis festival performance.

Anne Whelan has been teaching music and drama at Carbonear Collegiate for a number of years. Throughout her career, she’s taught plenty of talented students who went on to make a living from the skills they learned under her tutelage.

One such student was Robert Colbourne, who followed in Whelan’s footsteps and has taught at several different schools in the province, while also standing at the forefront of school choirs.

Colbourne now works at Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s, only an hour away from Whelan at Carbonear Collegiate.

The two kept in touch over the years and even shared some monumental moments. In 2013 they both received Kiwanis Music Festival Rose Bowl awards, with Whelan receiving the Instrumental Rose Bowl and Colbourne receiving the Choral Rose Bowl.

The two have continued to play an active role in each other’s lives outside the classroom as well, with Colbourne teaching Whelan’s daughter musical theory and coaching her in voice lessons.

“We remained great friends over the years,” Whelan told the Compass. “I was once his mentor, and now he is often mine.”

For the 2018 Kiwanis Music Festival, Colbourne and Whelan decided to band together for the event that has played such a major role in both of their lives.

“When (Colbourne) got settled in St. John’s, he told me ‘you and I should do something together before you retire,’ and he said that to me in September, but I just thought he might have been just kidding around,” Whelan said.
“Later he suggested we merge our choirs together, and I thought that was a great idea. I was happy it was something we were actually going to do.”

Merging their respective high schools’ girls’ choirs into one major performance doubled both the size of the choir as well as the power behind the voices.

The idea was many months in the making, with Whelan’s half of the choir taking a trip to St. John’s the week prior to the festival for a two-hour practice session with Colbourne and his students, followed by more practices throughout festival week and one big get-together as a team.

The merged choir prepared two major performances for the festival – a traditional Irish song called “The Parting Glass,” as well as “Juntos” by Jim Papoulis.

“I just thought it was really sweet, you know? Life comes full circle. He was my student at one point, and when my daughter started to sing, he was her first teacher, and now we’re working together on something big for the Kiwanis Festival. It’s exciting, but it’s fun,” said Whelan.

The merged choirs performed at Carbonear Collegiate on Thursday afternoon, March 15 to an appreciative audience, and received one of the top scores for the week — 94.5.

chris.lewis@cbncompass.ca

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