Artistic Directors

From inception to present…

Mel Kirby at work

Mel Kirby
Mel Kirby
Director 1991 – Present

The Festival Chorus current conductor brings over 25 years of professional expertise to the Chorus and is well known and respected member of the Calgary musical community. Armed with degrees from the University of Calgary and a Masters degree from the University of Illinois, Mel Kirby has brought varied and exciting repertoire to the Calgary community and the Chorus including contemporary works and jazz besides some of the best-loved classical works. Mel has been with the Chorus for two of our major milestones, our 40th Anniversary in 1999 and the 50th Anniversary in 2009. At the present time, in addition to directing Festival Chorus, he is coordinator of Calgary Opera’s Emerging Artist Development Program, overseeing the post-graduate training and transition to a professional working career of young Canadian singers.
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Brian Trevor
Director 1979 – 1991

A native of Vancouver, Brian Trevor has a wealth of experience to share, both as a conductor and tenor soloist. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia and graduate degrees at University of Oregon and University of Washington. While in Calgary, Brian taught at the Conservatory of Music of Mount Royal College and was the Artistic Director for The Festival Chorus for 12 years. During that time, he oversaw the Chorus’ involvement in the 1988 Winter Olympics and its collaboration with Edmonton’s Richard Eaton Singers. Brian is now an American citizen and since 2002 has been Director of Choral Activities at Glendor High School in Glendora, California.
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John Searchfield
Director 1959 – 1979

A co-founder of the Chorus along with Gerald Bales, John established the Chorus in order to take part in a Handel-Purcell Festival. Born in Chester, England and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, and the Royal Academy of Music in London, he came to Canada in 1955 and settled in Calgary in 1958. John was a sought-after conductor and organist in Calgary playing frequently on CBC Radio. Besides organist and choirmaster for Grace Presbyterian Church and later Christ Church, Elbow Park, he was associate professor at the University of Calgary and conducted the Edmonton Symphony and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra on several occasions. John resides in Calgary.
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Gerald Bales
Co-Founder & Director

Born in Toronto in 1919, Gerald Bales received his musical training from his mother at the Toronto Conservatory of Music.
For numerous years, Gerald was organist and choirmaster at a number of churches in Toronto, Calgary (Cathedral Church of the Redeemer) and Minneapolis. He formed the “St. Andrews Singers” a chamber choir, Calgary Orchestra and Choir Association and in 1959 was co-founder with John Searchfield of the Festival Chorus in Calgary. Gerald also established the Cathedral Music Series in Minneapolis.
Between 1971 and 1984 Gerald taught at the University of Ottawa. He appeared as organist, pianist, conductor and composer from Washington to San Diego and from Newfoundland to Vancouver. And composed music for piano, organ, orchestra and chorus – as well as scores for films and radio. In 1974 Gerald was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Canadian College of Organists and was their former National President.
In 1996 Gerald became a member of the Order of Canada and was named an Honorary Vice President of the RCCO of which he was an Honorary Life Member.
Gerald died on July 4, 2002.


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