Creston Valley Blossom Singers. (Photo submitted)

Creston Valley Blossom Singers. (Photo submitted)

Late choir director Anita Stushnoff to be celebrated in song

From Blossom Valley Singers

After two years without choir, the Blossom Valley Singers (BVS) are eager to sing again. But they are also eager to finally have the chance to say a proper goodbye to their long-loved and much-treasured late choir director, Anita Stushnoff, who passed away in September of last year.

“Anita was a musical fixture in this community for so many years,” said BVS President Linda Wallace.

“COVID-19 prevented any kind of celebration of her life. People from across the community were missing that chance to honour her.”

On May 13 at 7 p.m. and May 14 at 2:30 p.m., Blossom Valley Singers and other musical friends of Stushnoff will present “A Legacy of Voices” at the Kootenay River Secondary School theatre. BVS will be joined by regular concert guests Key of She, as well as soloists Lynne Hopcraft and Gail Southall, and Kootenay Brass. Some very special piano performances round out this eclectic program – part thank-you, part love letter, part blessing, and all “she was amazing”.

Besides serving as first accompanist and then director for this choir since the mid-80s, Stushnoff was a leader and a valued keystone in all kinds of musical endeavours here – from the Creston Valley Music Teachers Association, to the annual festival for music students, to directing other choirs (such as local women’s ensemble Key of She), to helping as pianist and director with nearly every church choir in the whole valley, to teaching an untold number of piano students over the decades.

“She’s been a mentor, an influencer, a giver, and a do-er,” said Wallace.

“In a very real way that touched so many people’s lives. Anita was an example of how to be a beautiful human being.”

Much has changed for the choir over the past two years.

“COVID-19 forced many choirs into hiatus, due to the very nature of what we do,” said Wallace.

“We expel large volumes of air, with force, in close proximity to other people… which became the definition of what not to do. After almost two years though, and in response to changes in public health orders, the choir board reached the conclusion that we needed to try and get active again, for the future good of the choir. But that meant we’d have to operate under pretty restrictive conditions.”

The need for singing with masks on, full vaccination, distancing, and other challenges arising from the pandemic prevented many of the usual choir members from participating. As well, two years of time passing had brought other changes, including some members moving away or just moving on to other endeavours and interests.

“We even had two more of our choir friends pass away over the past several months,” Wallace added.

“Just like many other choirs all over the world, we are needing to re-build our foundation. But we’re all determined to keep our piece of Anita’s legacy alive and strong.”

In addition to the impacts from COVID, the search for a new director has been somewhat of a rollercoaster for BVS.

The choir started the season in January with a new director who, unfortunately, had to step down after the first month. However, thanks to friends who have friends, the choir is extremely grateful to now be under the direction of Laura Johnson, a Nelson resident who also called Creston home for many years and was, herself, a piano student under Stushnoff’s tutelage.

Johnson also directs community bands in Nelson and Trail, including a small women’s choir in Nelson (which has been on hiatus throughout COVID), and she has other musical irons in the fire for the coming summer.

As BVS looks forward to the fall season and its much-loved annual Christmas concert, the hope is that the choir can resume more normal operations, and that many who were prevented from participating because of the various restrictions will be back on stage again.

With this special spring concert, Blossom Valley Singers invites you to join them in honouring the legacy of Anita Stushnoff. Tickets for the May 13 and 14 concerts are available at Black Bear Books, Kingfisher Books, and Fly in the Fibre.

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