NORTH DELTA – By day, North Delta resident Kelvin Ketchum is a civil engineer for BC Hydro whose qualifications include high-level math and sciences. He’s been living the simple life at his North Delta home, where he’s lived since 1991.
But the humble Hydro employee isn’t your typical engineer. By night, Ketchum is one of 80 classical singers in the prestigious Vancouver Bach Choir, the eight-decades strong choral symphony best known for its annual music tradition: Christmas with the Bach Choir.
Now semi-retired, Ketchum is able to balance his passion for music with civil servitude. He never saw himself as a singer, but seven years into joining the choir, he’s now the bass baritone section head.
"I was never a singer, but we really enjoyed Handel’s ‘Messiah,’" said Ketchum, who was trained in classical piano from the age of three.
"I think it was about the time that Bruce Pullan took over the choir in the early ’80s, they were doing the Sing-a-long ‘Messiah’ and my wife and I said to each other, ‘Let’s go and try that.’ We got totally hooked on that, and every Christmas we’d go to the Sing-a-long ‘Messiah.’" It wasn’t until 2008, however, that Ketchum decided to try his hand at actually joining the choir.
"By the time the kids got to the driving age, we figured, it’s time to see if I can get into this choir," he told the Now. "They did other great classical works and I just wanted to be part of a group that did that."
While the audition may be daunting to some, considering the Bach Choir is a prestigious one, Ketchum chalked up his confidence to his years of reading piano notation.
"I’ve actually never had a singing lesson in my life – I had the sight-reading ability," he revealed. "You have to be able to hold a tune and you have to be able to read music."
Another requisite? Passion. And Ketchum and his choir mates definitely have lots of it.
"I really enjoy being part of it," he said.
"I just found as I was singing, even as I practiced the Messiah or the Mozart Requiem, there’s a lot of emotion that comes out so I find it quite enriching. As a semi-retired guy, this is what I want to do. I don’t want to work in the house, I want to do music."
And as for the annual Christmas with the Bach Choir, the music holds more weight than ever for Ketchum.
"I have a strong Christian faith, I think that makes the music more meaningful," he said, adding that plenty of atheists also sing in the group.
"The ‘Messiah’ is such a familiar piece to a lot of Christians and people who like classical music…. To me, Christmas is all about the music, it’s the ‘Messiah’ or the great Christmas carols."
The Vancouver Bach Choir performs Christmas with the Bach Choir at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7 at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver. Tickets range from $25 to $59 and can be bought online at Vancouverbachchoir.com/tickets.
The choir is also having its Sing-a-long, hosted by Peninsula Productions, at White Rock Baptist Church on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets to the Sing-a-long are $25 in advance at Peninsulaproductions.org or $30 at the door.