Music professor, student take top national honours

Choral Canada // Special to Western News

Don Wright Faculty of Music professor emerita Victoria Meredith and fourth-year Voice student Leslie Higgins recently received National Choral Awards, presented by Choral Canada.

It’s always been Victoria Meredith’s Sunday morning habit to listen to Choral Concert with Katherine Duncan on CBC Radio.

Reminded this month to pay particular attention to the show, the Don Wright Faculty of Music professor emerita was stunned to hear she had been honoured with a Distinguished Service Award from Choral Canada, the top award of the national voice of Canadian conductors, educators and singers.

Meredith hadn’t known she was in the running; nominee names are put forward confidentially and then jury-reviewed.

Every two years, Choral Canada presents Podium, a four-day conference that brings together members of the national choral community. At that event, the National Choral Awards are presented.

During this year’s CBC broadcast – a COVID-19-necessitated departure from the planned gala in Montreal – fourth-year Voice student Leslie Higgins also received an award for Outstanding Student Essay to make Higgins and Meredith two of the seven award-winners.

Higgins won for her essay, To Blend or not to Blend: A Solo Singer’s Guide to Singing in Choral Ensembles.

The lifetime achievement award to Meredith recognizes exceptional, transformative contributions during the entirety of a career. Meredith has had a 40-year career in teaching and conducting choral music, including shaping Western’s program and conducting the National Youth Choir of Canada in 2010. She has also been a member of Choral Canada’s board of directors and had earlier been a recipient of an award for outstanding publication for her book, Singing Better as You Age.

Meredith continues to be an invited guest conductor, teacher and workshop leader across the country. Many of her students have outstanding conducting and teaching careers and many still stay in touch with her, she said. “To see the results of work that my former students have gone on to do is the most rewarding part of my career.”

She credited the late Western Music professor Deral Johnson, after whom the Deral Johnson Legacy Fund is named, with putting in place such a strong choral foundation. (More details on the award and on Western’s Music program can be found here.)

“Western has a long history of an exceptional program,” she said. “I didn’t start it, but I feel really privileged to have been a part of that.”

Ordinarily honourees are treated to a banquet and awards ceremony. This time, CBC played an example of Meredith’s work in a recording with the youth choir, to a nationwide audience. “As soon as the program was over my phone started ringing” with congratulations from friends, colleagues and former students, she said.