Our attitude is spirited and always on the edge. That’s because we take full advantage of the freedom that lies within our voices. Add our inspired creativity, a rock-solid band, and a passion for entertaining and you have the secret behind our ongoing musical evolution. Our path has seen us move from an oratorio choir from our start in the 1950’s to the creative purveyors of popular music that we are today.
Revv52 Unplugged: The Road to Carnegie Hall was performed January 21-23, 2016 at the beautiful new Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University in front of over 2600 audience members through four performances. We explored the music that is iconic to New York, from Duke Ellington to Cyndi Lauper to Billy Joel and we did so with a twist: more than half of the selections were sung a cappella. The incredible sound of the Bella provided our audience with rich harmonies from fantastic arrangements by Deke Sharon, as a prelude to our performance at Carnegie Hall in March 2016.
The big, fat sounds of the 1970’s Phil Spector Wall of Sound and the power of the backup singer from the movie 20 Feet from Stardom inspired us to create a multi-decade show: Inside the Wall of Sound. Layers of instruments coupled with layers of voices, all through custom arrangements from our band, brought familiar songs to life. We introduced a new stage format that had unobstructed views of the stage, and sold out the shows with the highest attendance on record.
We swung to a different approach for our spring show, bringing the popular call-and-response style back in our Gospel Revvolution shows. From the roots of some of the best gospel classics, to modern gospel by Kirk Frankin, to popular music by Elton John and Van Morrison that used the call-and-response feel in their music. The audience was delighted and musically we felt it was our best show – ever.
We hit the ground running in September 2013 with a whole new concept – sing about our native country, Canada! The treasure trove of great rock ‘n roll songs from the last five decades of Canadian artists reads like a who’s who of our music industry. We began with the singer songwriters and bands that led the way in terms of energy, in-your-face arrangements and classic styles. Groups like The Guess Who, BTO, The Sam Roberts Band and Chilliwack along with artists like Tegan & Sara, Gordon Lightfoot and Feist powered our first shows in January 2014.
From there, we ventured further with the bands that added more power through more elaborate orchestrations: groups like Lighthouse and Blood, Sweat & Tears and artists like Leonard Cohen and, kd lang and Michael Buble. The capacity crowds for both shows loved the intimate setting of River Park, and the intimacy of the venue allowed our audience to feel the wall of sound and tender moments of the show.
This year the performance ensemble celebrated its 60th year with the music of Memphis – the Blues, Soul, Rock, Rockabilly and Gospel. The call and response in the music is alive in each of these styles. It’s the music of the Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins) and Stax recording artists Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Booker T and the MG’s, Al Green, Isaac Hayes and Wilson Pickett.
Memphis is the city where more music has been written about than any other city in the world. The southern dialect, fried chicken and sweet potato pie of soul food, the slow cooked BBQ, the 100 degree heat of summer – are all part of the gumbo mix of music that identifies Memphis. The sites of Memphis – Graceland, Beale Street, Stax and Sun Records, Soul and Rock and Blues museums, the civil rights museum, civil war monuments and historical havens for slaves – flavor the music as well.
Revv52 responded to our growing fan base by offering a 3rd show at each of our winter and spring concerts – with sellouts at all of the shows! We also participated in a Blues & Rock festival in the fall with a 10-song set that was very exciting! Our familiar band was jacked up with the addition of Nicolai Drost on drums and percussion, alongside familiar faces Steve Pineo on guitar, Kit Johnson on bass and our own Trevor Waters on piano/keyboards.
It was the music from Greenwich Village New York, the heart of New York City’s bustling music district and the heart of the folk generation in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Dylan, Diamond, Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel were some of the solo artists and duo’s that cut their teeth here and got their start. The big groups came next: the Mama’s and the Papa’s, Crosby Stills & Nash, Jefferson Airplane and the Lovin’ Spoonful. Every year, another dozen hits that are being heard by young and older generations alike, because the music was sensational.
The first concerts in January started with the music of the early 1960’s, with a story about songwriting and performing in small cafes in the Village told by our own members. Two nights, two sold out audiences of over 800 each night warming up the cold Calgary nights. Then onto the bus and a quick trip to Edmonton for an appearance to a new audience, with the same response. What great fans we have! Thank you for braving the cold!
The second concerts were warmer, and the heat inside was turned up high with more stories of the Village as it matured and became the songwriting capital of the world. Artists and groups were portrayed with an emphasis on a little wilder side. Again, sold out audiences both nights with great energy and joy throughout the night.
Kudos to Kit, Steve, Nathan and Trevor in the band; John, Colin, Aaron and the whole video crew. Kudos plus to our Producer Murray Ord, whose patience and experience made this our best set of shows yet.
We began our year by looking forward to what we want to be: a great singing group in Canada with a promise to our audience of raising their energy and hope for the future. We moved into some new territory with our first concert in January called “Sonochromatic: the Color of Sound”. We worked on body percussion, vocal instrumentation and other techniques – we even created an indoor rainstorm before one of our songs! The evening ended with a tribute to the victims of the Haiti earthquake disaster with the singing of ‘We are the World’, raising over $5,000 from the audience.
In the spring, we took one of the bigger risks in our history: to perform two concerts, on two back-to-back nights, with two professional musicians. We chose to work with newcomer and Juno nominee Meaghan Smith, and veteran musician and Juno winner Jimmy Rankin, for the two shows. Revv52 sang 7 different songs each night, the artists performed their own selection of 7 songs, and we sang 5 different songs together – all arranged specifically for the event. The toughest challenge: to perform live on stage after only one rehearsal! We pulled it off and managed to learn more about preparation and focus, discipline and creativity – all at the same time!
We focused on the contributions of the great piano singer-songwriters with our first concert in January called “Key Change”, hosted by Doug McKeag. Great songs by Billy Joel, Elton John and Carole King (among many others) were performed to packed houses over two nights. The Elton John anthem “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” concluded the night, with our four-piece band playing on until the last audience member had departed.
In the spring, we celebrated some of the great songs we had sung as a group over the last ten years – a revival, if you will, of our history as we looked forward towards the future. Again, over two nights to packed houses, we sang great songs from Motown, anthems of hope, some great gospel songs like “Sinner Man” and many others. The audience left with a little extra lift in their steps, a promise we make every concert.
“Dock of the Bay,” “Stand by Me” and “Shining Star” are just a few of the songs that warm the spirits of our audience on two January nights. Breaking with tradition once again, our I Feel Good, the Soul of Pop, concert is “led” by great blues artist Tim Williams rather than a master of ceremonies. Joined by some of Calgary’s finest musicians, we melt the winter nights away with hot tunes and fun times.
There’s a common thread that winds its way through our eclectic musical path and that’s a pure passion for what we do. Our zeal translates into the energy you experience at any Revv52 performance. In 2008 we change our name to capture that energy combining the word Revv with our founding year. The name keeps us in tune with our past and echoes our plans for a dynamic future.
Take a four-piece rock band and the sheer power of a 60-voice choir. Now add songs like “Let it Be,” “Help Me Rhonda,”and “God Only Knows.” We do all of this and more for our spring 2008 concert aptly named You Say You want a Revvolution: Impressions of the Beatles and the Beach Boys. It’s the first time we take our new name out for a spin and audiences are not disappointed.
Pushing the boundaries of choral music once again, we collaborate with local actors Onalea Gilbertson and Doug McKeag, developing an integrated performance that interplays vocal arts with theatre. Listen to the Music, follows a son’s roadtrip to his father’s milestone birthday and family reunion. We play the “radio” providing a musical backdrop for the trip. Involving comprehensive stage management, lighting, live music and a hilarious script, the concert is another significant leap forward in our evolution. We present a high quality, original performance unseen anywhere else in Canada.
We venture further, producing a series dedicated to the great sounds and rhythms of MOTOWN. Building on success, we partner with Johnny Summers once again and other local jazz sensations. We also release our first studio-quality CD featuring MOTOWN favourites and bonus tracks from our concerts of the past three years.
Collaborating with local jazz sensation Johnny Summers, we present a passionate, energetic tribute to the life of Ray Charles in the Jack Singer Concert Hall at the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts. The result: our first sellout concert in Calgary’s foremost concert hall.
We release our second CD entitled Encore Live, featuring excerpts from two of our concerts including a successful mix of world, gospel, and popular music. We’re happy with the recording and so are our audiences. We are sold out of copies in no time.
We celebrate our 50th anniversary in fine fashion with our Rhythms of Life concert (December 2002) and Canadian Roots concert (May 2003). We’re clearly moving further away from other choirs, surprising audiences with our repertoire, quality and willingness to take creative risks.
We release our first compact disc (CD) recording, entitled Gospel Celebration featuring our live concert of Gospel Greats and introducing Raghav, now a major recording artist in the United Kingdom.
Current Artistic Director, Brian Farrell joins our group and we begin singing “off book,” performing an eclectic range of material including gospel, celtic, latino, african and new age music. That same year, we honour Stanley Rasmussen for his 43 years as a member of the choir.
One thousand and seventy-five voices come together to perform at the Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Olympic Games held in Calgary. We are 50 of those voices.
James Monro succeeds John Vandenbeld as Artistic Director. We begin to include a few famous Broadway show tunes in our repertoire.
John Vandenbeld is named to succeed William Thorburn as Artistic Director. We are an oratorio choir presenting mostly classical music.
We have a new Artistic Director as Harold Ramsay retires and William Thorburn assumes this leadership role. We are an oratorio choir presenting mostly classical music.
Our performance of the “20th Century Mass” is released as a long-play record. It marks the first of more recordings to come.
We sing Harold Ramsey’s arrangement of the “20th Century Mass” at Mount Royal College’s convocation ceremonies. We also answer London Records’ request and perform the same piece at Wesley United Church.
We’re centre stage at the dedication ceremony for Calgary’s Jubilee Auditorium, performing Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony accompanied by the Calgary Symphony Orchestra.
The Calgary Choral Society is founded and the 190 members, under the direction of Harold Ramsay, Organist and Choirmaster at Wesley United Church, begin to find their collective voice.
Rising to the occasion, our first concert, entitled Merrie England, is held at the Stampede Corral. Accompanied by the Calgary Symphony Orchestra and two soloists from Britain, we did our best to honour Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.Return to Top