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With administrator the Rev. Paul Rideout on sabbatical, two choir members stepped in to ensure Diocesan Choir School went ahead this year.

Mary Louise Belyea and Robert Taylor shared organizational duties, and on the day in question, more than 50 adult choristers showed up to spend the day rehearsing, and in the evening, performing at Trinity Church, Saint John on July 8.

A good crowd was on hand to hear the sweet sound of voices united in song under the direction of Spencer Belyea. The Rev. Steven Scribner welcomed all those in attendance.

This year and last, Diocesan Choir School has opted for a one-day event, in stark contrast to the pre-COVID days when the event ran for a week, with children learning the music for several days before the adult choristers arrived on Thursday.

But there are hopes that by next year, they can return to their week-long event and once again welcome children to their ranks.

“It’s always been so important to have kids here to learn in that environment,” said Mary Louise. 

She is the group’s fundraising chair, so taking on the extra responsibility of organizing the day was not a big stretch.

“I grew up in Choir School, and this was going to be my only time to be the director, so I took it, and Robert wanted to work with me,” she said, adding she has one more year of study to complete a Bachelor’s degree in music at Kings College in Halifax. 

“It’s so nice to just be here, singing in the choir, working with Dad,” she said of director Spencer. “It’s so comfortable.”

This is her 16th year at Diocesan Choir School.

“The music is great this year,” said Robert. “I love it. I’m happy to be able to stay with it all these years, every July.”

Robert was treasurer for 33 years, and at this year’s event, received his 40-year medallion. 

Medallions are a way of marking the dedication and commitment of choristers. Each year, they are given out, beginning with brand new members. This year seven light blue medallions were awarded to first-timers.

Four members received a five-year medallion of dark blue; one received a 10-year red medallion; two received a 20-year maroon; and one person, Robert, received the 40-year silver medallion.

The first people to ever receive the silver medallion were Spencer and Jean Taylor, Robert’s late wife. That was in 2016.

And while longevity is celebrated, a new member, Margie Blanchet, was experiencing it for the first time.

“My sister encouraged me to come,” she said. “It’s going well.”

Her sister, Linda Webb, began Choir School in the 60s as a youngster.

“I sent my children to Choir School in the 90s, then I started going back,” she said. “I really like it and I like the people. There are a lot of connections.”

Linda attends Trinity, while her sister, Margie, attends The Rez in Grand Bay-Westfield.

One tradition of choir school is getting a new, colourful T-shirt each year, but this year, knowing so many had several already, members were encouraged to wear their favourite.

Diocesan Choir School was founded in 1957, the brain-child of Douglas Murray of St. George’s in Moncton, with assistance from Archbishop Harold Nutter, Ruth Clark, Rosalie Belyea, the Rev. Ted Eaton and Mark LeRoux. Douglas Murray was Robert’s father-in-law.

It was held as a week-long session for the first time in 1958 at Rothesay Collegiate School, moving to Camp Medley from 1972-1984. It returned to Rothesay Netherwood School in 1985. Many directors and guest clinicians have been part of Diocesan Choir School over the years.

Service Leads: The Rev. Andrew Horne, chaplain and cantor; Spencer Belyea, Neil Cockburn and Nhat-Viet (Toto) Phi, music staff.

Planning Team: Robert Taylor and Mary Louise Belyea, administrative co-chairs; James Snelgrove, recording secretary; Sherry MacPhee, registrar; Linda Pitman, treasurer; Mary Louise Belyea, fundraising; Darrell James, print media; Lynn Mills, librarian/medallions; and Spencer Belyea, music coordinator.

Jane Beyea, Margie Blanchet, Carol Brander, Judy Briggs, Mike Briggs, Mary Alice Brown, Cressida Campion, Felix Campion, Peter Campion, Mary Clarke, Robyn Cuming, Lily Cyr Oulette, Cleo Cyr, Donna Dobbin, Heather Donnelly, Jocelyn Donnelly, Nita Driscoll, David Goss, Chris Hayes, Christine Hayes, John Higgins, Barb Hill, Emily Johnston, Talia Kennedy, Kevin Langford, Dalton London, Sheila London, Paul Mills, Lynn Moore, Julia Nixon, Bruce Noble, Angie Phi, Joel Phi, Nancy Scott, Bill Simons, Barry Snodgrass, Patsy Sparks, Christian Vanicek, Marianne Vanicek, Sebastian Venicek, Linda Webb.

Diocesan Choir School operates with support from the following: Diocese of Fredericton, Anglican Church Women (diocese and parish chapters), St. Paul’s Endowment Fund, St. Anne’s ACW, parishes and churches represented by choristers and staff.

Donations are welcome. For more information, visit and search “choir school 2023” on Facebook.

1.  Choristers rehearse before the evening performance at Trinity in Saint John.
2.  Music director Spencer Belyea leads during a rehearsal.
3. Mary Louise Belyea stepped up to co-direct this year's Diocesan Choir School.
4. Robert Taylor did a reading during the evening service. He is seen here wearing his 40-year medallion. He also co-directed the event with Mary Louise Belyea.

McKnight photos

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