After 37 years as conductor of Kitchener-Waterloo’s Grand Philharmonic Choir, Howard Dyck is stepping down at the end of this season. And as he prepares for a January performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, lovers of choral music can celebrate three specific aspects of this down-to-earth, Manitoba-born maestro: his voice, and his two arms.
Dyck’s smooth and affable baritone voice helped make him an ubiquitous sonic presence on CBC radio for over 30 years, hosting Mostly Music from 1976 to 1979, Saturday Afternoon at the Opera from 1987 to 2007, and the programme that he’s perhaps most identified with – Choral Concert, from 1980 to 2008. This last programme in particular has been one of the CBC’s most solid and high quality offerings. Dyck and his producer (and fellow conductor) Robert Cooper presented a show that illuminated not only the wide range of choral achievement in Canada, but featured broadcasts and recordings of the highest quality from all over the world (Choral Concert continues to run every Sunday morning, with new host Peter Togni).
As for his arms, Dyck has been raising them in the service of Canadian choral performance for as long as he’s been broadcasting. Powered by his musical studies in Germany under Martin Stephani at the Detmold Hochschule für Musik, and with Helmuth Rilling at the Internationale Bachakademie in the 1960s, Dyck made his base in 1972 in Waterloo as conductor and artistic director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir, now known as the Grand Philharmonic Choir. Although the “K-W Phil” was his principal ensemble, Dyck conducted at various times the Kitchener Bach Choir, London Pro Musica, the Stratford Concert Choir and the Bach-Elgar Choir of Hamilton. He’s done a great deal of international guest conducting, and worked with many distinguished choirs and soloists. As well, he’s played a special part in the launching and fostering of the careers of Canadian vocalists, most notably Ben Heppner and Susan Platts.