The Parry Sound Singers have their roots in the Parry Sound Choral Society, founded before World War II, disbanded in the 1960s, to be revived again in 1985 under the leadership of Lynda Lipsett, a graduate of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music, a choral soloist and teacher. The choir took part in workshops with Brian Law and the Cantata Singers, Albert Greer and the Cellar Singers, and the late Dr. Elmer Iseler and the Iseler Singers.
During the ten years that Lynda was our conductor, we performed the complete "Messiah," Faure's Requiem and two staged performances of Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." As well, we sang "Peter by the Sea" over a live telephone hook-up to "Morningside" at the CBC studios in Toronto in the summer of 1986.
When Lynda Lipsett and her family left Parry Sound in 1995, William McArton took over the baton. Under his leadership the choir won two "gold" standings in the Muskoka-Parry Sound Music Festival. In 1997, when we once again were without a conductor, the future of the community choir seemed very much in doubt. At this point there were only two remaining male choir members, one of whom sadly succumbed to cancer. The other decided to bow out gracefully.
Thus was born the all-female choir, which within a year was renamed the Parry Sound Singers. Janice Land, one of the younger members and a soloist, bravely volunteered to take on the leadership of the choir. She had also been the Choral Society's first librarian in 1985. Under Janice the choir continued with workshops and, along with its new name, the choir acquired a lighter and brighter sound and a more contemporary repertoire while still containing both sacred and secular music.
At about the same time our two devoted accompanists since 1985, Bridget Wells and Carolien Murch, both left and we gained the talented musician Lois Szczesniak, who had 15 years of experience in Toronto's Mendelssohn Choir as a singer and as a studio accompanist with such groups as the St. Michael's Boys' Choir. She became our accompanist in 1999.
Under the direction of Janice Land, the chorus performed "The Beatles in Revue" at the Stockey Centre during its testing period before officially opening and in numerous Christmas and other concerts within the community. In 2005, when Janice resigned, Andrea McIntyre became interim conductor to hold the chorus together until the hiring of Gaylle Turner in the summer of 2006.
Gaylle brought extensive training as a director within the Sweet Adeline organization to the Parry Sound Singers and trained the chorus to be more of a performance based unit. While some acapella work was done, most of the chorus repertoire remained with accompaniment. Under the direction of Gaylle, the chorus returned to the Stockey Centre in May 2008 with their first fully scripted Broadway-style comedy show in 2008. The script for Cottage Strife was written by our very own Lynn McGuigan, Bev Shoemaker and Gaylle Turner and played with hilarity to a full house. A portion of the show proceeds was donated to the Stockey Centre for additional riser pieces to provide any vocal group using the Stockey Centre increased flexibility in setup.
From 2009 to 2015, the chorus under Gaylle presented annual spring shows to sold out audiences and because our 2014 show was standing room only, starting in 2015 the Singers added a second performance date to their spring show. All of the scripts continue to be written in-house by our talented singers, with the exception of our 2014 show, which was written by Rebecca Zanussi, the daughter of one of our members. Each year, with proceeds of the show, the Singers donate an annual bursary to a graduating student from Parry Sound High School who has contributed greatly to the musical life of the school. As well, the Singers have continued to donate to the Stockey Centre for such things as recording equipment for the use of all who use the facility. The Singers also present a couple of Christmas shows each year. Admission is always free, but donations of food and/or cash from the attending audience are gratefully accepted by two local charities.
In 2015 our long-time and much-loved accompanist, Lois Szczesniak, retired and passed the keyboard on to Theresa Beninger in January. Theresa, a local piano teacher, gamely took on the large repertoire and joined in the hijinks on stage with enthusiasm. Lois continues to help out on occasion, especially with quartets and small groups. Also in 2015 our director Gaylle finally got her wish, and Carinna Pellett, a former assistant director, returned to Parry Sound and took over the leadership of the Singers. At the end of the year, however, Carinna found herself headed back north to teach and Gaylle once again resumed the directorship of the chorus for the 2016/17 year with a show to celebrate the 150th birthday of Canada's birthday.
The fall of 2017 brought a new director, Len Ballantine, to the Singers. Len is delighted with the opportunity to serve the community through this unique ensemble.

Len Ballantine, Director

Len is a graduate of the U of T's Faculty of Music where he studied composition, piano and choral direction. Throughout his career, Len has travelled widely, gaining an international reputation as a choral and brass specialist. His works have been performed and recorded by some of the world's finest ensembles, including the King's Singers, the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Yorkshire Building Society (brass band) as well as the Salvation Army's International Staff Band and Songsters. Len has also worked professionally in music theatre and enjoys a diverse affection for music of all genres.
From their home on the Narrows in Seguin, Ontario, Len and his wife Heather manage a website called which allows them to continue resourcing and encouraging musicians, singers and leaders throughout the world.