John Barron’s Life and Legacy of Music

John Barron has been a leader in London and Canadian choral music education for four decades, as a curriculum developer, artistic director, choir member, mentor and teacher to thousands of singers in the schools where he taught and in the choirs in which he has participated. As a co-founder of the Amabile Youth Singers, he has served to make London, Ontario famous for its choral music throughout the world.

Beginning in the 1960’s, John taught secondary school choral music in Toronto and London, where he developed curriculua that brought choral music to the fore, for hundreds of students. He also sang with Canada’s renowned choral composer, Healey Willan, and was a member of the Festival Singers under the direction of Elmer Iseler. In 1976 he took his young family to Késkemét, Hungary for one year where he studied at the famous Kodály Institute.

He became the Music Consultant for the former Middlesex County Board of Education, where he developed a Canadian curriculum using the Kodály method for elementary singing, which has been used all across the country. He is also the editor of several choral books of folk songs which are used in Canadian classrooms. John taught at Westminster Secondary School in 1970, after arriving from Toronto. He was the founding conductor of London Pro Musica. In 1972, he became the Music Consultant for what was the former Middlesex County Board of Education.

He led the Ontario Youth Choir in 1975 when it won the grand prize for both the CBC Biennial Choral competition and the European Broadcasting Union’s “Let the Peoples Sing” competition. Sir David Willcocks, one of the judges, called the OYC the finest youth choir he ever heard. In fact, John Barron is the only choral conductor in the world to win this competition three times, and with two different choirs (youth choir category).

At the end of the 1985 London “Kiwanis Music Festival”, Barron and fellow-music teacher Brenda Zadorsky took their respective triple trios – who had competed against each other – for ice cream at a local mall to celebrate. The twenty-seven girls wandered up onto a set of risers and just for fun, and this impromptu group sang. The blend of voices ignited the spark that the following September became the Amabile Youth Singers. That spur-of-the-moment performance 29 years ago, laid the foundation for what is now, almost 300 choristers are in eight different Amabile choirs – boys and girls, from age 6 to adults.

Under his co-direction, the Amabile Choirs have won the CBC National Choral Competition more times than any other group. Over the years, the choirs have entertained audiences in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Australia, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Estonia, Finland and New Zealand, and won many international competitions. The Amabile Youth Singers, for example, travelled to Greece in 1999, winning 2 golds at the International Choir Festival of Preveza, Greece; 2 golds in Bremen, Germany at the Choral, and returned this past summer to Greece, bring home 2 more golds.

At Barron’s suggestion, Amabile has placed a huge emphasis on Canadian composers and music, commissioning over 100 new works, including thirty from Stephen Hatfield whom John refers to as Amabile’s “composer in non-residence”. The choirs have recorded or participated in more than 15 CD’s.

John Barron’s publications include a series of arrangements of Canadian folk songs, “Reflections of Canada”, which received an ACCC Outstanding Choral Publications Award, and “How to Make a Recording”, part of Choirs Ontario 2007 “How To…” series. John is also the author of a music textbook called “Ride With Me – A Journey from Unison to Part-Singing”.

In addition to his musical leadership, John is well-known for his generosity, even to providing bus fare, so choristers could make it to rehearsals and performance venues. John’s financial support also extended to providing a choral award for the 2013 Kiwanis Music Festival, but maybe shines brightest in the “John and Lowell Barron Endowment Fund” which currently holds over $360,000 and grows annually. It was established in 2003 to provide bursary assistance to at-risk choristers whose financial challenges might prevent them from joining the Amabile family.

He was named to the Order of Canada in 2007. His investiture as a member was in 2008, with Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean presiding. The citation read:

“John Barron has helped to revolutionize music education in elementary schools in his province. He adapted the Kodaly method – which teaches musical literacy through singing, games, movement and folk songs – and featured Canadian material as a key learning tool. He has also brought international acclaim to Canada as a co-founder of one of the world’s premier youth choirs, the award-winning Amabile Youth Singers. He serves as a model for other conductors and is known for his generosity in helping to develop and promote Canadian composers.”

Throughout his 45 year career, John has been a much sought-after clinician and adjudicator with music organizations and institutions across Canada and the US; he has been recognized with numerous awards. The Jack Richardson Music Awards named John the 2009 “Dennis Brown Lifetime Achievement Award” winner. The award named is after the late London jazz drummer and honours those whose commitment to music is both pervasive and influential.

By coincidence, Barron was a percussionist in high school, and marching to his own beat, John Barron has enriched the Canadian music landscape – choral and otherwise through his commitment, his vision, his support and his leadership.

John Barron

An update from his daughter Katie: Peacefully and surrounded by family, our loving father, John Barron, passed away Monday afternoon after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He finally found peace while listening to a recording of the 1975 Ontario Youth Choir. Most incredibly, he took his last breath on the last note of the last piece on the recording, which was Le Temps de Vivre. After being unconscious for several hours, he then lifted his arms and folded his hands across his chest. It was beautiful and so very fitting.

The visitation will be Thursday May 8, from 6-9 pm, at Yorke Chapel, 2357 Bloor St West, Toronto. The service is to be Saturday May 10 at 2 pm, at Eglinton St George’s United Church in Toronto. Carol Beynon and Lydia Adams are heading up organizing the music for the service and there will be a call put out for singers who would like to participate (both from Amabile and from Toronto and other connections). There will be a lot of singing and many different conductors participating. My dad took a lot of pleasure planning this service during his last weeks of life.

Dad was an inspiration both musically and personally. He will remain in the hearts of many, especially his devoted wife, Lowell Barron, my sisters and me. We could not have asked for a more loving, gentle, and kind-hearted father.

Thanks for a great tribute to a great friend, Katie! In John’s memory the family has asked that donations be made to the “John & Lowell Barron Amabile Choirs Fund” through the choirs or London Community Foundation. More information on transportation for choristers who are able to be a part of the service will be coming soon. Watch our Facebook page “The Amabile Choirs” for updates.

Click here for the full story of John’s life and music.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Lowell and the Barron family. We are honoured to be asked to be a part of the celebration of John’s life and music.

Wade Baillie,
Chair, Board of Directors
Amabile Choirs of London, Canada

The Legacy That Canadians Leave Makes A Difference!

Survey says…

A new Scotiabank poll has found 25% of residents of Ontario plan to leave some of their estate to charity. That’s only slightly higher than the Canadian national average at 22%.

That’s great news for Canadian charities.

These trends can be attributed to two things: more childless couples today and more people living longer. In the case of the latter, their children are often older and already well-established, so they don’t feel as great a need to leave all of their estate to their children.

In the Scotiabank poll, the top three reasons Canadians cited for leaving some of their estate to charity were a desire to give back to society (60 per cent), not having dependents and wanting their money to go to a good cause (20 per cent), and for the tax benefits (12 per cent).

One of the more surprising results, the bank said, was only four in 10 (39 per cent) of Canadians said they were aware of the tax benefits associated with charitable giving.

While taxes are not the primary reason to give, tax savings greatly reduce the cost to other beneficiaries. A gift by will generates a non-refundable tax credit that can be claimed against tax owing, and new rules provide a five-year claim period against up to 100 per cent of net income.

 Need information on including Amabile in your will, click here

Portions Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2014 A2

Ensure That The Music Continues – Leave A legacy!

You Can Ensure A Future With Music!

The values that you uphold can do much to shape the lives of those who come after you. One of the best ways is to make a Legacy Gift through your will or estate plan to Amabile Choirs of London, Canada to ensure that world-class music is a part of the world that your children and grandchildren will inherit.

What is a Legacy Gift?

A legacy gift is a planned future donation to a charity, given through a will bequest or other form of designation. It is a decision that each person makes in their own financial planning process, taking into account their charitable wishes and values. Gifts can also be made in other ways such as making Amabile Choirs of London, Canada a named beneficiary of a life insurance policy, RRSP or RRIF. For some, it is a way to ensure their memory lives on. For others, it is a way to ensure that Amabile Choirs of London, Canada is able to continue to make music.

Charitable Will Bequests

Bequests are gifts made through your Will.  You can leave a specific amount of money, a piece of property or a portion of your estate residue. Since you can claim up to 100% of your income on your final tax return and carry back any excess to the previous year, the tax relief created by an estate gift can be significant. And remember that a surprisingly small amount can make a lasting difference in the world.

There are lots of Benefits!

Reduced taxes – Amabile Choirs will issue an official receipt for the full value of the Will Bequest to your estate. This receipt can then be used to reduce the tax payable on your final return.

Flexible and revocable – A charitable gift can be made for any amount and is revocable at any time should your financial situation change.

Leave a lasting legacy – Your charitable gift will make a real difference to ensure that great voices can continue to make world-class music, leaving a lasting legacy for you, your family or anyone you wish to honour.

Is it complicated to do?

A Will bequest can be as simple as a sentence or two naming Amabile Choirs of London, Canada in your Will or adding a codicil to your existing Will, designating a specific dollar amount, a particular asset or a fixed percentage of your estate to Amabile Choirs.

What Do I Have To Do?

Consider your gift carefully – The government recognizes the value of charitable donations and provides tax benefits for those who give. Planned charitable giving involves evaluating various options for giving gifts of cash, securities, real estate or any type of personal or cultural property to a registered charity, now and in the future. You can make such a donation at any time and you will receive a donation receipt equal to the cash value or the fair market value of your donation.

Talk To Your Advisors! – Because different options for giving have different tax implication we recommend that you consult your financial advisor to pick the method that will be most beneficial to you.  Gifts both large and small are important — legacy giving is not just for the wealthy. Everyone who supports Amabile Choirs of London, Canada is at a different stage of his or her life and able to give at a different level. Whatever your specific situation may be, there is a legacy giving option that suits your circumstances.

Needs Do Change Over Time – The most flexible wording is to leave your gift “to Amabile Choirs of London, Canada for its general purposes.” As our choirs’ needs change from year to year and technology impact our future needs, it is appreciated if an “undesignated” gift can be made. If restrictions are placed on your gift, they should be made generally and with some flexibility or an “out” clause, should the need no longer exist at the time of your death. Sadly, there are many examples where funds are tied up for “small pox research” for example – a need that no longer exists.

Tell the important people in your life – Plan your gift in consultation with your lawyer or financial and/or tax advisor. They will know the right way to ensure that your wishes are carried out and your gift is passed along to Amabile Choirs of London, Canada. Make sure that your family members are aware of your intentions so they too can support the achievement of your charitable goals.

Planned gifts made to the Amabile Choirs of London, Canada will outlast your lifetime and touch the lives of future generations. Click here to print this page, so you’ll have it handy when you consult with your professional advisor

Thank You again to our many Volunteers

Congratulations to six amazing Amabile volunteers who were among dozens who were saluted tonight at the Marconi Club and presented with Ontario Volunteer Service Awards, by the Ontario Honours and Awards Secretariat of the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. These six alone represent a total of about 75 years of service. And Amabile has about 50 volunteers actually so over 30 years, that’s a lot of generosity of spirit and dedication. Lovely tribute by Minister of Health, MPP Deb Matthews. 

Pictured l to r: Helen Walsh, Wendy Inch, Mary Margaret Farrow, MPP Deb Mathews, Vicki Hlady MacDonald, Diane Canton, Lisa McCracken