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Choir leader’s selfless work wins her Castlegar Citizen of the Year

Christina Nolan has grown the community choir into a strong and vibrant asset for the city
Christina Nolan will be honoured as Castlegar’s Citizen of the Year next Wednesday at St. Rita’s Parish Hall. Photo: John Boivin

Christina Nolan didn’t quite believe the phone call she got from the Knights of Columbus last Saturday night telling her she was Citizen of the Year.

“I did not know I had even been nominated. You could have knocked me over with a feather,” she says. “My jaw was on the floor, and I made him repeat it three or four times.”

But it was true: Nolan had been chosen by the group to be Castlegar’s Citizen of the Year.

Nolan, a commercial relationship manager at the Bank of Montreal, was nominated for her tireless work as the director of the Twin Rivers Community Choir — and much more.

Since taking on the role of leader of the choir in 2012, she has shown exceptional leadership in bringing the musical organization to new strengths.

Every week, for nine months every year, she volunteers huge amounts of her personal time to coach and mentor community members in order to bring a polished and beautiful musical experience to Castlegar.

“I believe a community choir is made up of people who are there for a specific purpose, and that’s to have fun and make music,” she says. “Those are the two key elements I strive for.”

Since she has taken it on, the choir has grown from 12 singers to more than 50. And last year, she started a spin-off children’s choir to engage young people in choral music.

Admission into the choirs is open to all, and Nolan works with the different sections of the choir to help create a welcoming and comfortable experience for everyone.

The choir undertakes two major concert series each year, one in December and one in the spring. The choir also performs at various local events (Castlegar Sunfest, Music in the Park, and Remembrance Day) and twice a year for the seniors who live at Castleview.

“We work through the process of learning the music, and getting to the performance stage,” she says.

“It’s fun most of the time,” she adds, laughing. “It does get a little stressful before a performance, but at the end of the day there’s such a feeling of achievement.

“I love the progression from the wide-eyed moment of ‘can we really do that?’ to the check-off list of ‘yeah, we really did that.’”

Sometimes Nolan goes beyond the call of duty to help her fellow choir members.

“Earlier this year, a choir member couple was severely injured in a car crash,” notes her nomination form. “They were mobility challenged to the point that while recovering at home they could not cook for themselves.

“Christina organized an on-line meal delivery service that brought the entire choir together, whereby members volunteered to take turns making and delivering hot meals to the convalescing couple for two months until they recovered sufficiently to start cooking themselves again.”

But the choir isn’t the only way Nolan contributes to the community.

A small business owner herself (she’s operated a voice studio for 20 years) she is actively engaged with the local chamber of commerce. She helped organize the Castlegar and District Chamber Business Awards, and the annual West Kootenay Trade Show at the Castlegar complex.

“One thing I love about living in a small community is that everyone can make a difference,” she says. “There are so many people who step up to the plate and make a difference every day.

“So to be recognized like this is so overwhelming.”

Like many recipients, Nolan says she feels humbled by the award.

“I feel there are so many people who can share this award,” she says. “It shouldn’t just be one person — I can name 10 people off the top of my head who are influences on me in Castlegar.

“There are so many others that spring to mind that are deserving of this, or more so. So I feel humbled by all this attention and really thankful to the Knights of Columbus for the honour.”

Nolan will be presented with the award at a ceremony in her honour on Wednesday, May 29 at St. Rita’s Parish Hall on 7th Ave. in Castlegar.

It’s free to the public, but you’re asked to arrive by 6:30 p.m. for the event.