Singing the Story of the Purge in Halifax

In May 2023, Halifax hosted the 7th quadrennial Unison Festival — a choral event featuring Canada’s 2SLGBTQIA+ choruses. The first festival was held in Edmonton in 1998 and festivals have since been held in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Calgary. You can learn more about about the festival here.

The event in Halifax drew 22 choirs and over 1000 attendees, including members of the LGBT Purge Fund Board, who attended to see the three choral works commissioned by the Fund about the LGBT Purge. The pieces were poignant and powerful. Watch them here!



The Commanded Heart
TTBB Festival Chorus, conducted by Willi Zwozdesky
Composed by D. Geoffrey Bell
Lyrics by Ben Berg

This work of original music and text for TTBB choir uses personal words, thoughts, and feelings about the LGBT Purge, contrasted with excerpts from the text of “O Canada”. Solo singers make statements about why they chose to serve their country, followed by questions about how their country served them.

Hushed Injustices
SSAA Festival Chorus, conducted by Deirdre Kellerman
Composed by Leslie Arden
Lyrics by Leslie Arden & Janice Martin

This work of original music and text for SSAA choir sheds light on the LGBT Purge and the voices of those in the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and federal public service. The individual and collective voices in the song share the common story of those who believed in serving their country—to make it a better and safer place—only to discover that they themselves were not safe. As well as delving into the themes of prejudice, homophobia and shame, the piece also explores loss of faith, shaken idealism, and the reluctance to talk about it.






Before You Even Knew
SATB Massed Chorus, conducted by Marg Stubington
Composed by Mark Sirett
Lyrics by Wendy Jean MacLean

The work for SATB choir is based on a poem by the same name, inspired by the stories of leaders in the LGBT class action suit. It offers examples of reconciliation from nature, celebrating beauty and wonder in the joy of sharing in the gifts of diversity, creation and love. To quote the poet: Many people, at the beginning of their careers, with their lives before them, were denied the freedom to be their whole selves. The poem imagines nature’s ways of grieving this loss, and nature’s loving reflection of the movement towards wholeness in community. It expresses the hope that all people may grow in the beauty and joy of their own sexuality as part of their whole being. It speaks to the power of being community, and the strength and wonder of seeing new ways together.