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Arts: Edison Singers herald the Christmas season in NOTL
Jim Bourne, a well-known NOTL musician and chorister, will be part of a Christmas choral concert on Dec. 18, with the Edison Singers in the Court House Theatre. TIM TAYLOR

Like almost all professional musicians, Jim Bourne wears many musical hats. 

It’s a hard-won life, fuelled by passion more than money. It is just what he does. 

Organist, choir master, private tutor, musician, pianist and chorister — his is an ever-changing circle of activity. 

Bourne is well-known as the music director of St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Old Town.

But he also performs with major Canadian choirs, opera companies, well-known solo performers, and on and on. He uses the organ, piano and, of course, his powerful bass voice. And, in a pinch, he can add the clarinet and trumpet.

And he is in the bass section for the Edison Singers for‘Tis the Season,” the choir’s Christmas concert at the Court House Theatre on Monday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Bourne took to music at an early age, but it wasn’t until he joined the choir at Trinity College School in Port Hope that he began to see a real future in music.

“I was the head choir boy,” Bourne says, drifting back several decades.

“Our choir went on a three-week tour of England and Wales. It just blew my mind. It was during this period that I realized that this (music) is what I should be doing.”

He describes a life that was never without music.

After high school, Bourne attended the Conservatoire in Brussels for a year.

“I was too young for university, so I just took chamber music lessons — played all the time — and sang whenever I could. In the afternoon, we all went out for beer.”

When he returned in time for university at Western in London, Ont., his parents urged him to sideline music. 

His father was the town engineer in Port Hope, then moved his family to Cobourg to join a private engineering firm.

“My father didn’t really think music would be useful,” he says with a smile.

After switching his major from general to French during his first two years, some friends in the music faculty asked him to accompany them for their voice recitals. By his third year he successfully auditioned for the school choir. 

Bourne made the switch to the music program, starting back in year one.

“I just think it was in my blood, the thing I was best at.”

After graduating from Western, he earned a post-graduate performance diploma at the Royal College in London, England, all-the-while performing in a variety of small ensembles.

After an 18-year stint as music director at Leaside Presbyterian Church in Toronto, and a concurrent 14-year role as accompanist for the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Bourne moved to Niagara in 2018 to become St. Mark’s music director.

But he loves singing for Noel Edison. “Noel is always solid at the podium. He gets the best people he can. And then he doesn’t micromanage anyone. No one shapes the music like Noel Edison does.”

And Edison loves the Christmas choral season.

“Even though I have been in the choral music business for over 45 years,” says Edison, “I still look forward to the month of December with all the concerts and all the wonderful music that is written for the season.

“The music of Christmas comes in many forms, shapes and emotions,” he says.

“It’s about past gatherings with family and friends, adult memories of good times — and sometimes bad times — but it’s the one time of the year that always conjures up a deep emotion of goodwill towards all.”

For more information about the concert, go to theedisonsingers.com or call 226-384-9300.

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