About Island Bel Canto Singers

Together since 1997, Island Bel Canto Singers is a well-respected auditioned women’s choir in Nanaimo and the Central Vancouver Island region. We love to laugh, we share friendships and enjoy each other’s company, and most of all, we love to sing!

Our choral repertoire is diverse, from early classics to contemporary music, world music and musical theatre, all in a variety of languages. We sing both accompanied and a cappella, and mainly in three-part harmony.

We produce concerts at Christmas and in May each year, at which guest musicians from around the Island are regularly featured. We also perform at community events throughout the year, and network with other choirs to enrich and extend the choral tradition in Nanaimo and surrounding area.

We invite you to check out our website to find out what we’re all about. Better yet, come to our concerts to see and hear for yourself! You'll then want to continue to attend our concerts or even join the choir!

Click on the following topics to find out more!

Our history

It all started in August 1997, when 17 women responded to a local ad for singers in a new women’s choir. Their spirit of teamwork, coupled the inspired leadership of their director Irene Thompson, saw the choir grow in both size and popularity over the next 3 years.

In early 2002, Christine McMahon took over the director’s position, and the choir continued to flourish. In addition to our traditional annual Christmas and Spring concerts during Christine’s tenure, the choir participated in the Mid-Island Music Festivals in Duncan.

Lionel Tanod became the choir’s next Artistic Director in 2005. He expanded the choir’s repertoire and built connections with many other musical groups in the community. He was a key figure, along with a number of choir members, in the creation of Nanaimo Sings!, an organization that brings together choirs within the Nanaimo area for multi-choir festivals and workshops. Lionel was also instrumental in the choir’s participation at International Choral Kathaumixw XV in 2012, where he found the inspiration for creating our chamber ensemble.

The next phase of the choir’s evolution began January 2014, when Sharon Sinclair stepped up to the podium as the choir’s Artistic Director, after being our accompanist for 11 years.

After being on hiatus through the COVID-19 pandemic, the choir resumed its operations in January 2022, under the direction of Fiona Blackburn.

Throughout the years, the choir continues to thrive as a result of everyone’s commitment to teamwork and choral excellence. This is, beyond a doubt, a group of women who truly love to sing and have fun together!

About our Artistic Director
Fiona Blackburn

Fiona brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to choral music. She has a B.Mus in voice performance, a B.Ed in secondary music, and a M.Mus in choral conducting. She performed, recorded and toured for 13 seasons with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and for 5 seasons, she sang with Vancouver Opera in numerous roles. Fiona has taught music from kindergarten to university, as an adjunct professor in the Department of Education at UBC.

As the Founding and Artistic Director of the BC Girls Choir from 2004 to 2022, Fiona toured with the choir through numerous countries and led them to winning the coveted Children’s Choir of the World trophy, which is the highest honour at one of the world’s most prestigious competitions—the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales. Fiona was awarded the BC Choral Federation’s 2016 Healey Willan Award for her work to promote choral singing in BC. She is known for her passionate support of the art of singing in all its forms, as well as her engaging and uplifting interaction with singers of all ages. In addition to her role with Island Bel Canto Singers, Fiona conducts Malaspina Choir in Nanaimo. She now resides with her retired music-educator husband in Fanny Bay.

About our accompanist
Stefanie Unger

Stefanie Unger is a versatile collaborative pianist with a broad-ranging portfolio of vocal and instrumental works in opera, oratorio, chamber music, musical theatre, church music and jazz. Her love of working with choirs began as a child, accompanying her elementary school choir. This passion grew during more than a decade working with numerous choirs in Indiana, Lithuania, and Southern Ontario. Now firmly settled on Vancouver Island, she enjoys accompanying Island Bel Canto Singers and collaborating with other groups in Nanaimo’s vibrant choral community.