From Blossom Valley Singers
After two years without a choir, the Blossom Valley Singers (BVS) can’t wait to sing again. But they are also looking forward to finally having the chance to say goodbye to their much-loved and much-loved choirmaster, Anita Stushnoff, who passed away in September last year.
“Anita was a musical staple in this community for so many years,” said BVS President Linda Wallace.
“COVID-19 has prevented any form of celebration of his life. People from all over the community were missing this chance to pay their respects.
On May 13 at 7 p.m. and May 14 at 2:30 p.m., Blossom Valley Singers and other musician friends of Stushnoff will perform “A Legacy of Voices” at the Kootenay River High School Theater. BVS will be joined by regular concert guests Key of She, as well as soloists Lynne Hopcraft and Gail Southall, and Kootenay Brass. Some very special piano performances complete this eclectic program – part thank you, part love letter, part blessing, and all “she was amazing”.
As well as being the first accompanist and then director of this choir since the mid-1980s, Stushnoff was a valued leader and keystone in all manner of musical endeavors here – from the Creston Valley Music Teachers Association to the annual for music students, to directing other choirs (such as the local Key of She women’s ensemble), helping as a pianist and director of nearly every church choir throughout the valley, teaching a number countless piano students over the decades.
“She was a mentor, an influencer, a donor and an actor,” Wallace said.
“In a very real way that touched the lives of so many people. Anita was an example of how to be a beautiful human being.
Much has changed for the choir over the past two years.
“COVID-19 has forced many choirs on hiatus, due to the very nature of what we do,” Wallace said.
“We blow out large volumes of air, forcefully, in close proximity to other people… which has become the definition of what not to do. After almost two years however, and in response to changes in public health orders, the choir board came to the conclusion that we should try to get active again, for the future good of the choir. But that meant that we had to operate under quite restrictive conditions.
The need to sing with masks, full vaccination, distancing and other challenges arising from the pandemic have kept many regular choir members from participating. In addition, two years of time have brought other changes, including the departure of some members or the transition to other activities and interests.
“We even had two more of our choir friends pass away in the last few months,” Wallace added.
“Like many other choirs around the world, we need to rebuild our foundations. But we are all determined to keep our part of Anita’s legacy alive and strong.
In addition to the impacts of COVID, the search for a new director has been something of a roller coaster for BVS.
The choir started the season in January with a new director who unfortunately had to step down after the first month. However, thanks to friends who have friends, the choir is extremely grateful to be now under the direction of Laura Johnson, a Nelson resident who also called Creston home for many years and who herself studied the piano under the tutelage of Stushnoff.
Johnson also leads community groups in Nelson and Trail, including a small women’s choir in Nelson (which has been on hiatus throughout COVID), and she has other musical irons in the fire for the coming summer. .
As BVS looks forward to the fall season and its much-loved annual Christmas concert, the hope is that the choir can resume more normal operations and that many of those who have been prevented from participating due to the various restrictions will be back on stage.
With this special spring concert, Blossom Valley Singers invite you to join them in honoring the legacy of Anita Stushnoff. Tickets for the concerts on May 13 and 14 are available from Black Bear Books, Kingfisher Books and Fly in the Fibre.