The Russell Men’s Choir back row, left to right are Jim Nesrallah, Marshall Lundie, Harry Baker, Tom VanDusen. Middle row: Richard Manningham, Tony Glen, Harvey Pinkham, Gerry Lafontaine, Tom Hay and Fred Doucet. Front: Kacper Waclawski director.   Courtesy Photo


RUSSELL – After 27 years singing to the region’s residents the Russell Men’s Choir has ended their musical adventure.

Harry Backer, the choir’s coordinator said it was a combinations of issues that more or less forced the choir to end its quarter century of bringing great music into the lives of residents.

The choir members that at its height featured 24 members had shrunk down to eight members.

Covid and exhaustion were the main factors affecting the choir.

The Choir called it quits this past January.

“‘We did nine Christmas concerts and we were bushed. Some people stepped down from their various jobs and there was no one to step up and replace them,” said Baker.

During the pandemic the choir was still able to perform using masks and could meet together through Zoom meetings. When the Covid restrictions loosened they were able to meet at the museum in Russell.

“We were able to do some concerts with our face masks on and then things started to pick up again this fall. We started to get bookings.”

The challenge facing the choir as pandemic restrictions began to lift was that they were exhausted.

“We had to cancel our bookings.”

The end of the choir can be reveresed if enough residents want to try their hand at singing.

In the past choir members have come from Winchester, Chesterville, Embrun, Russell and Metcalfe.

Baker said the choir still has its keyboard and sound system. The choir just needs members.

The list of songs the choir would sing includes Broadway tunes, Christmas favourites and even Remembrance Day themed tunes.

Baker has written a brief history of the Russell Male Choir. In an excerpt from Baker’s History he wrote, “Formed in 1996 by Lorne Wade it was first called “Presidents Choice” – the first accompanists were June Graham and Eileen Hamelin.

Neville Brown took over as Director about 2002 and the name was changed to the Russell Male Choir.

Early members included: Sterling Sheldrick, Victor McAthy, Neville Brown, Lorne Wade, Bill Garland, Frank Thompson, Eric Therkelson, Eldon York, Leo Bekkers, Meredith Rombough and David Turley.

From the beginning they sang in nursing homes, retirement residences, churches, Kemptville Hospital – later at the Seniors Day at the Russell Fair, Tim Hortons in Embrun and at Russell Township Council.

The first practice hall was upstairs in the Russell Arena.

By Nov 2007 we had 18 members.

In June 2011 we had 28 members including the Mayor J.P. St. Pierre. March 2020 the COVID -19 Pandemic hit we had our last performance at Promenade Seniors Community in Orleans on March 12. Some of the first COVID related deaths we in that residence.”