Director's Report for the King's Chapel AGM 2015

Mar 14, 2015

Capella Regalis Men & Boys Choir
Report for the King’s Chapel AGM 2015

Nick Halley, Artistic Director
Vanessa Halley, Manager

Capella Regalis in the Chapel Community
Capella Regalis Men & Boys Choir, founded by Nick Halley in the winter of 2010, is not a programme of King’s College (we are a separate non-profit organization and are not administered or funded by the College), but the choir is honoured to be considered very much a part of the King’s Chapel community.  The 2014-15 season marks the fifth year that Capella Regalis Men & Boys Choir has been ‘in residence’ in the King’s Chapel, singing weekly Evensongs here every Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. and using the Chapel for rehearsal space.  Our name, Capella Regalis, denotes our umbilical connection to the Chapel.  

The Chapel provides a structure that helps to define the mission of Capella Regalis and sets us apart from the vast majority of boys choirs now found in North America. While Canada was once rich with men and boys choirs in the Anglican tradition, Capella Regalis is one of only a handful in Canada today. A liturgical men and boys choir is counter-cultural in our current time and place.  But we are finding that, increasingly, the parents and, more important, the boys themselves are gaining an appreciation and understanding of the rare educational experience the boys are getting not only in music (some of the most incredible music humankind has had to offer over the last eight centuries), but in independent thought, leadership, and commitment. The choristers get to witness and be a contributing part of a religious community with excellent liturgy, and a university community of academic and artistic excellence.  This exposure at an early age to such possibilities will inspire the boys in many ways as they continue through their lives. 

We extend our deepest thanks to Father Thorne and the King’s Chapel community for welcoming the choir into your worship, your space, and community life.  Our continuing hope is that we, in turn, contribute significantly to the Chapel and College communities. And who knows, we may start to see in the next few years young men entering King’s as choral scholars thanks to their training in this wonderful community as boys.

Capella Regalis is, and always has been, a completely free programme for any boy who passes an audition. In addition, a volunteer-based transportation programme is provided to get choristers from under-served areas, who otherwise would not be able to participate, from school to rehearsals, choral services, and concerts and back home again, twice weekly. The choir draws boys ages 6 - 13 from all backgrounds and areas of Halifax and environs, from Tantallon to Halifax’s North End. 

Capella Regalis currently comprises a Senior Choir, which rehearses twice weekly (Tuesdays and Fridays), sings a Choral Evensong once weekly in the University of King’s College Chapel, and performs concerts around Nova Scotia in a busy September – June season; the Friday Programme, which trains young or new choristers in music fundamentals in a low-pressure environment to prepare them for transition to the Senior Choir; and the Men, who sing alto, tenor, and bass, and whose ranks include professional singers, volunteers, and former boy choristers whose voices have changed.  We also offer a Thursday rehearsal for Young Men – those choristers whose voices have recently changed – to help them transition to the men’s section and singing alto, tenor, and bass.

Capella Regalis is a registered society under the Societies Act of Nova Scotia, and since the summer of 2012, we have been an educational outreach programme of Musique Royale, a charitable organization with a mission to support and present music programming and education across Nova Scotia.

Capella Regalis is run by Nick Halley as Director, Vanessa Halley as Manager, and Nick Veltmeyer as Assistant Director.  In addition, Capella Regalis is blessed with a team of wonderful, key volunteers, without whom we would not be able to do what we do.  Paul Halley spends many hours serving on the Board of Directors, accompanying the choir, assisting with rehearsals, and providing experienced support and encouragement in a multitude of unpaid ways.  Barbara Butler chairs the Board and provides performance opportunities and structure through her organization, Musique Royale.  Scott Beard is our Librarian, overseeing our music library, assisting to put together music lists, and maintaining music folders for all men and boys on a weekly basis. He also serves on the Board.  Andrew Griffin, a 3rd-year King’s student, is the most recent addition to our Board and has been active in grant-writing for the choir this year.  Liz Kobes designs concert posters and acts as a general ‘choir mother’ (still fielding phone calls from parents and boys from time to time).  Sarah Stevenson takes care of our Internet and information services, including design and maintenance of our website and social media, putting in countless hours on a purely volunteer basis.  Marielle Nicol, a 2nd-year King’s student and the Junior Organ Scholar, has been assisting with our Friday Programme rehearsals.  Other volunteers include our volunteer drivers (special mention to Beth Boudreau), the men who do so much more than sing (Shay Burkhart, Henk Fisher, Paul Rogers, Peter Wilkinson are particular stand-outs), parents, those many Chapel members who help greet and officiate at Capella Regalis Evensongs, and of course Father Thorne, who continues to be a shepherd and friend to all of us, and most especially the boys.

Programme Update
Shortly after our AGM report last March, the boys sang in Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the King’s Chapel Choir, singing the chorale as the ‘ripieno choir’ in two key movements of the piece. Soon after that, the men and boys began preparing to record their first CD.  Two recording sessions took place at All Saints Cathedral in early June, and the CD was released on October 7, 2014, rejoicing in the title “My Eyes for Beauty Pine”. This has been a great thing for the choir, not least because of the encouragement we’ve derived from the enthusiastic responses to the CD coming from great musicians in the field across Canada.  

We started the 2014-15 season with our fourth annual Capella Regalis summer choir camp for the boys at St Anne’s Camp in West Dalhousie in late August.  Choir camp is extremely fun for choristers and counselors alike, and highlights this year (in addition to the many rehearsals, of course) included two epic games of crocker, a raucous skit night, a grand “scare night” Quest, the third annual Non-Athelon, much jamming on guitar, penny-whistle, and trombone, and many a wonderful meal prepared by Shay and company.

Our season began much like any other, with rehearsals and services getting off to a roaring start – until about half the choir went through voice-change at precisely the same moment. This left our director scrambling a little bit, which was no doubt good for him. The younger boys in the choir had to step it up in time for our annual Christmas concert series “To Bethlehem with Kings”, which they did rather marvelously. The Halifax concert was particularly fine and evidently well-publicized, given the vast crowd that took in the music in St Mary’s Basilica.

The many changing voices also prompted the establishment of a weekly Thursday rehearsal for our new category of men – “Young Men” – to help with the vocal transition from soprano down to alto, tenor, or bass.  We currently have five keen Young Men in the choir. They are a wonderful, and key, development in our programme.

Directed by Nick Veltmeyer, the Friday Programme meets once weekly (Friday afternoons) for one hour during the Senior Choir rehearsal time.  We currently have three boys ages in the Friday Programme, having just promoted three others to the Senior Choir in January.  In our recruitment efforts, we look to expand the Friday Programme each year, since it is a nice chance for prospective boys and parents to get a sense of what we do (and get hooked on great music).

The men and boys continued their weekly Evensongs throughout the academic term.  During Lent, the choir has been singing Evensong at the Cathedral Church of All Saints, which has been an additional blessing. We are looking forward to the privilege of once again taking our place in the line-up for Holy Tuesday. This is a Eucharistic opportunity to which the boys look forward very much and we have just begun rehearsing the wonderful plainchant “Missa Orbis Factor” as well as Anerio’s haunting setting of “Christus Factus Est” for that service.

Concert highlights of the season include the Christmas programme, To Bethlehem With King’s, which we performed December 19 – 21, 2014, at Christ Church, Windsor, St John’s in Lunenburg, and then at St Mary’s Basilica in Halifax with the Maritime Brass; our upcoming spat of school shows (in which the men and boys perform annually for more than 1,000 school children around HRM); a “Cookie Concert” for Barbara Butler and Musique Royale in Lunenburg on May 2nd; and a tour of Nova Scotia (May 14-23), when we will perform in Lunenburg, Broad Cove, Yarmouth, Annapolis Royal, and Halifax. 

We will also have an Open House in the Chapel in May (date TDB), where we’ll give a mini-concert, and the whole host of choristers young and old, parents, and other community members will be present, with food and drink. This event is designed to let interested people know what we’re all about – particularly any boys or parents that might like to join Capella Regalis. All are welcome. 

On June 20/21 Capella Regalis will officially celebrate its well-developed childhood with a “5-Year Anniversary Thank You Bash”. This will be an event in Halifax, with food, wine, good company, and entertainment, at which we hope to say thank you to as many of the extraordinary people who have made Capella Regalis possible as can make it out for that date. 

At the top of that list of people to whom we are thankful for our very existence are the Chapel, and the Chaplain, Fr Thorne.

Stay tuned at

Submitted March 14, 2015