OTTERBURNE, MB – Providence started up a choir at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester under the leadership of a new choir director, Rob Bonefaas. Their first performance will be a livestream event. The ‘Festival of Christmas Praise’ will air on Friday, December 17th at 7:30 pm CT.
Providence is excited to be debuting our choir and musicians in time for Christmas. It promises to be festive and uplifting with an enjoyable selection of carols and songs of the season.
We are very pleased to now have a choir director in-person and on-campus. Earning a music degree at McMaster University, Bonefaas graduated with honours in singing. Voice was his major, and it is still his main instrument.
Bonefaas says he is not new to the Providence community. A couple of years ago, he started in the Seminary with a Master’s in Educational Studies. And more than 10 years ago, when he first moved to Manitoba, he got to know the late Dr. Henry Schellenberg and attended choral concerts on our Otterburne campus.
“I was quite enthralled with the Providence choir under Schellenberg. He was brilliant and the music program was thriving during his time. He was the one who inspired me to further my studies. He opened my eyes to the possibilities in music (and in choirs). He helped me see where things could go if you allow it.”
Bonefaas teaches a music program to students in kindergarten to grade 6 at Immanuel Christian School in Winnipeg. He focuses mostly on using the Orff approach to music. He also leads bands for students in grades 7 to 10. He works with students in small groups. They hold special choral and instrumental performances at Christmas and throughout the year.
Bonefaas says music played a strong role in his life as he grew up in the Netherlands. He started as a percussionist on the snare drum at the age of six and he has always enjoyed singing in choirs. He believes strongly in the importance of music education.
“I believe that music education, in and of itself, is foundational for learning. It develops our minds by providing creative expression and outlets. It gives us certain perspectives and it allows us to think more deeply about aspects of life. There is wonder and beauty in music. It’s wonderful to be part of a group and to be together with others in music. The community that you can build through music is powerful.”
Over the years, there have been many studies that say music reduces anxiety and stress and helps elevate IQ which aids students in their studies. Bonefaas says he see the benefits of starting a choir at Providence especially during COVID times.
“We only started two months ago, but I can already see the connections and relationships that are forming with the members of our choir. We have a small core group. We are hoping to grow throughout the school year. We will see where it leads us.”
At Providence, there are currently six choir members plus an accompanist. They meet on the Otterburne campus on Thursday evenings from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm in the R. W. Affleck Chapel. Bonefaas says he keeps it lighthearted and fun with lots of singing and lots of learning.
“For the ‘Festival of Christmas Praise,’ the music is quite extensive with many different pieces from an amazing arrangement of ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ to an upbeat mixed arrangement, combining the well-loved and well-known ‘Amen’ and ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ songs. We encourage everyone at home to have fun and join in with the carol-singing!”
The program has just been finalized, and Bonefaas says the choir has been practicing an acapella version of ‘Rock My Soul’ and a wonderful traditional piece of music called ‘In the Bleak Midwinter.’ Diversity is celebrated throughout their song selections. They’re learning an African Psalm with strong rhythms and melodies.
The evening will feature two guest soloists. Trevor Schriemer, a tenor, will sing ‘Sweet Little Jesus Boy’ and Soprano Grace Reap (nee Schriemer) who is also a Prov alum will sing Handel’s ‘I Know that My Redeemer Liveth.’ You do not want to miss this event! So, mark your calendars for December 17th and tune-in at 7:30 pm CT for Providence’s ‘Festival of Christmas Praise’ Livestream. Watch for more details on our provmanitoba social media.