Back to the top


Revv52 aka Calgary Choral Society

Throughout its history, the Calgary Choral Society has been a collection of largely avocational performers who share a passion for music and performance. There has been a diversity of skills and ages, but a shared energy and support for each other as performers, as friends and – both genetically and metaphorically – as family.

A History of the Calgary Choral Society

THE EARLY YEARS (1903 – 1940)

The earliest evidence of Calgary Choral Society was a rehearsal held on March 10, 19031. Over the next years the group met intermittently until Horace Reynolds took over the group in addition to his role as organist at Wesley United Church. After two conductors (C.B. Glover 7 years & Edward Broome 1 year), Glyndor Jones, a well-known baritone from Wales and also an organist with the United Church2, became the new conductor in 1927. He was with the group until he left for a position in Vancouver in 1940. The group performed classical pieces as well as operettas. Membership was free and open to all Calgarians.

CORONATION & BEYOND (1952 – 1980)

At a meeting of the downtown Kiwanis club on September 8, 1952, the formation of the Calgary Choral Society was approved. “Consensus of members speaking before the vote was that Calgary is now ready, both in size of population and in the number of people interested, to support a choral society in the city on a paying basis.”3 Over the summer of 1952, 400 auditions were held from which 66 sopranos, 55 contraltos, 30 tenors and 50 basses were selected, and there was a waiting list of 170. Rehearsals were held at the Mount Royal College Conservatory of Music. The first event was a recording of two carols for the Calgary Power Discovers radio program on December 21, 1952 as well as their Christmas Day broadcast.

The Calgary Choral Society’s first public performance was at the Stampede Corral on May 9, 1953 where they performed “Merrie England” with the Calgary Symphony Orchestra and two of “Britain’s brightest singing stars”, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, as part of a celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. There were over 6,000 people in attendance.

This oratorio choir continued after that inaugural concert with plans for two concerts per year, one in November and one in April. In 1970 the Calgary Choral Society was formed as a non-profit organization which it remains to this day.


Through the years, the Calgary Choral Society performed Messiah, with the first known performance in 19134. In a time where such performances were a primary source of entertainment for the season, this was a big draw. Public opinion was strong and the pressure was definitely on for a group of singers to do justice to this music. Depending on the year and the particular group of singers (and reviewers!), feedback was sometimes enthusiastic and occasionally dramatically negative. One letter to the editor in 19275 complained not of the music, but of a desire for more of it — that a ticket price of $1 was too high and should be reduced to $0.50 and allow for two performances.
In 1970, the Messiah was, for the first time, not a capacity audience at the Jubilee. John Vandenbeld switched the musical offering to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in 1975, and when the Messiah was performed again in 1978 at Knox United Church to a smaller crowd, reviews were not great (“Couldn’t get a Handel on the Messiah”6). With this in mind, Vandenbeld creatively decided to embrace the amateur label, continue a cherished tradition, and in 1981 the group successfully launched a sing-a-long Messiah, a tradition that continues to this day at Knox United Church, but is no longer sponsored by the Calgary Choral Society.

SETTLING IN (1980 TO 1995)

Calgary Choral Society established itself as an on-book group of enthusiastic community singers preparing for and performing two shows per year, Christmas and Spring. With James Munro’s last concert as Artistic Director, the group left classical music behind to try out the music of Broadway and perform with another Calgary group, the Heebee Jeebees. This was a sign of things to come.

A NEW APPROACH (1995-2008)

When Brian Farrell was asked to become Calgary Choral Society’s new Artistic Director, he indicated he would only be interested if the group was ready for a change. Over the first decade of his leadership, the group began performing off-book with an expanded repertoire of music. They sang over the years with more performers, including Raghav, David Thiaw, Cuba Libre, Steve Pineo Trio, Tim Tamashiro Quintet, Johnny Summers, Lindsay Ell, Tim Williams, and others.

1The Daily Herald, p.8. March 10, 1908
2The Calgary Daily Herald, p.12. November
3Calgary Herald, p.3. September 9, 1952
4The Calgary Daily Herald, p.15. September 27, 1913
5The Calgary Daily Herald January 18, 1927
6The Albertan, December 14, 1978

Revv52 Rebrand (2008 – Present)

In 2008 Calgary Choral Society was rebranded as Revv52. The first show performed as Revv52 was Revvolution, performed at the Jubilee Auditorium and all covers of The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

Performances have been held each January and May since. In 2015 they added a gala performance in the fall in various locations in Calgary. In 2017, Revv52 returned to Mount Royal University in the new Bella Concert Hall. Revv52 was part of the 2017 Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show, and has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City twice, in 2016 and 2019.

Continuing to welcome other performers to join them, Revv52 has performed with Jimmy Rankin, Meaghan Smith, Steve Pineo, Kit Johnson, Doug McKeag, Jonathan Love and others.

In March 2020, after having to curtail rehearsals and performances due to COVID-19, Revv52 experimented with members rehearsing and recording both audio and video in their homes. This resulted in the production of eight virtual videos in five months including a version of O Canada performed in Cree, French and English.


Director Name Start End
John Morgan June 2018 Present
Brian Farrell June 1995 May 2018
James Munro July 1986 May 1995
John Van den Beld February 1975 June 1986
William Thorburn April 1968 January 1975
Harold Ramsay December 1952 March 1968
Glyndor Jones November 1927 August 1940
Dr. Edward Broome September 1926 1927
C.B. (Bill) Glover September 1919 1926
Horace Reynolds January 1913 1919


Album Name Release Date Format Studio
20th Century Folk Mass Jan 3, 1964 LP London Records
Gospel Celebration Live March 1998 CD First Baptist Church performance Dec 6, 1997
Encore Live January 2003 CD Self-produced

© 2023 Revv52. All rights reserved.