Now in its 39th season, the Aeolian Singers began under the direction of founder Claire Wall as a program of Dartmouth Continuing Education. From 1976 to 1990 the choir performed under Claire’s direction, competing and winning in music festivals, making recordings, performing with Symphony Nova Scotia and touring throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and many parts of Canada. The Aeolians have always been enthusiastic champions of new music created for women’s voices, including commissions in those years supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the CBC, such as Dennis Farrell’s Vestigia and Alasdair MacLean’s Songs and Sayings, among other pieces.
Over time the choir broke away from Continuing Education and became a provincially registered not-for-profit society and a registered charity. In 1990, Nova Scotia native Jacqueline Chambers became the choir’s second Artistic Director, a position she held for 20 years. During Jackie’s tenure, the choir made two CDs, collaborated with many Nova Scotian and Canadian women artists, and developed themed concerts for International Women’s Day under the Celebrating Women title. These partnerships broke new ground for women’s choirs, developing programs featuring modern dance, flamenco, poetry and theatre. The Aeolians continued to commission new works for women’s voices from a who’s who of Canadian arrangers, songwriters and composers, including Stephen Hatfield, Scott Macmillan, Donna Rhodenizer, Lydia Adams, Susan Crowe, Connie Kaldor, Jennifer Wyatt, the late Raylene Rankin, Christopher Palmer and others. They also worked with many Nova Scotia musicians including Pam Mason, Ardyth and Jennifer, Allan Gaskin, the Blue Engine String Quartet, Shimon Walt and others.
The choir has paid tribute to prominent Nova Scotia women including poet Elizabeth Bishop and honored early suffragettes and others who’ve championed women’s rights and voices. They’ve performed extensively throughout Nova Scotia in everything from Jewish repertoire to Holst’s The Planets. They have also donated funds to and helped raise the profile of various groups including Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, the Marguerite Centre, the North End Parents Resource Centre, Breast Cancer Action Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia Heart and Stroke Foundation. The choir has sung for her Excellency, Adrienne Clarkson, the former Governor General of Canada, and the Right Honourable Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, as well as the late Elizabeth Edwards, and Muriel Duckworth at her 100th birthday celebration at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. The Aeolians have sung for many charity events, at church services, at conductor Georg Tintner’s memorial service and at the Nova Institution in Truro, and often collaborated with many girls’ and other women’s choirs from the Maritimes.
In 2011 The Aeolian Singers entered a new phase with the appointment of Janet Gaskin as its third Artistic Director. A former choir member and guest conductor, Janet brings a wealth of choral experience and musical knowledge to the Aeolians. She has created innovative programs with choral colleagues Malcolm Bradley and Dartmouth Choral Society, Jacqueline Chambers and Creative Voices of Truro, and Moncton’s Carolyn Keirstead and Riversong, Coastal Voices (of which Janet is also the Artistic Director) and William Perrot and Nova Voce. The Aeolians produced an original show, Babes on Broadway, written and conceived by Eleanor Hall, and collaborated with artists such as Laura Smith, Shimon Walt and Lydia Hanson.
Today, The Aeolians is a community-based, auditioned choir whose mission is to present high quality, interesting choral programs, partnering with other artists and arts organizations in Nova Scotia. They are currently led by Artistic Director Heather Fraser.