In 1949, a few men gathered in Islington Village to form a choral group. They began by performing at church suppers and various charitable events, and within a year had engaged conductor Rod Sheppard and accompanist Milton Dagg who would lead the chorus for over 20 years until Rod’s untimely death. His legacy was nonetheless in place as the chorus had grown in numbers and had established a reputation for good harmony and public service.
Originally ‘The Islingtonaires’, the chorus changed its name in recognition of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. At that time, they also adopted the Dress Stewart Tartan for their colourful uniform. ‘The Queensmen of Toronto Male Chorus’ was born. .
Under the direction of Rod Sheppard, the chorus joined forces with like-minded men in Ontario and the USA, and through participation in joint concerts or ‘Sings’, traveled widely and earned an international reputation. The Associated Male Choruses of Ontario thrives today with five member choruses in southern Ontario. The Queensmen, as they have in the past, provide important leadership in the organization.
With the appointment of Harry Learoyd as conductor in 1979 and the continued support of Milton Dagg, the chorus grew and consistently offered special concerts and public service throughout Toronto while maintaining a strong relationship with fellow choristers beyond. Milton retired in 2001 after 52 years of incredible loyalty to the chorus. Stan Werden took over and continued the important support for us. Harry completed his remarkable service of 26 years with his retirement in 2005.
In 2000, the chorus established a scholarship at the University of Toronto in memory of a long-serving and beloved member. The Queensmen of Toronto Richard Bowles Memorial Scholarship, supported by $2,000.00 from Richard’s estate and $2,000.00 from the chorus, became fully endowed in 2005 through a university and government program.
Following Harry Learoyd’s departure, Michael Morgan was appointed conductor in January 2006 and served us well for 8 years. We began a transition to contemporary popular music to extend appeal to a younger audience – and members. Chorus members began to take part in the selection of our music, and we found improved enjoyment, as did our audience.
In 2006, the chorus began planning for new directions in attire, presentation and repertoire. A young accompanist, Konrad Harley was engaged in 2006. He is a gifted musician and a few years later completed his PhD programe at the U of T, Faculty of Music in Musicology and Music Theory. Konrad has remained a friend and follower through the years and continues to contribute significantly to our music library.
We renewed our efforts to reach out to young people, with a concert format and music which appealed to young, as well as not-so-young, audiences. We have shared concerts with chamber choirs, youth choirs and orchestras from schools. Some of these are John G. Althouse Middle School, Etobicoke School of the Arts, Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, Earl Haig Secondary School, Cawthra Park Secondary School and Mississauga Festival Youth Choir. There has been a significant increase in the responses from the young people to our presentations, and we are encouraged that this is the right direction for the future of The Queensmen Male Chorus.
Covid brought significant difficulties for all choruses. Concerts stopped, income dwindled, and we lost many members. With excellent direction and very substantial support from our Director Mina Kim (2016 – 2023), we remained active on zoom and produced several new songs, remotely on video, from individual computer submissions. She produced them and a few can be seen under in the ‘Recordings’ section of this website. They are not perfect, but we learned much and, importantly, it kept a team together and the musical part of our brains active. Mina left us early in 2023 for the best of reasons. She and her husband were starting their new family.
In 2022 through an Etobicoke funded music program, we met Kento Stratford. A young, energetic, mature and competent music leader. Mina encouraged us to engage him as her replacement and he agreed. We are delighted!
In 2024, we shall mark a very important milestone – 75 years of continuous singing and service to our community.
There are plans to be made – – –