Greer named to Order of Canada
Albert Greer puts on his Order of Canada lapel pin for the first time Monday. The silver insignia, a six-pointed snowflake, signifies Greer’s appointment to the Order of Canada.
Albert Greer has been appointed a member of the Order of Canada — this country’s highest civilian honour.
Greer, 75, is being appointed “for his achievements as a conductor, composer and teacher, which helped shape the direction of Canadian choral music.”
Greer called the appointment “a complete surprise.” He was sworn to secrecy for a month until the list of 91 Canadians — members, companions and officers are appointed twice annually — was released Sunday.
“I’m trying to wipe the smile off my face still,” said Greer.
“It’s nice to be appreciated and, sometimes, when you’re in a leadership role you wonder if you are being appreciated,” said Greer.
Born in Toronto, Greer’s family encouraged him to go into business or medicine.
A renowned choral director, Lloyd Bradshaw, encouraged Greer to apply his studies toward a bachelor of arts, which he received from the University of Toronto.
He embarked on his career as a tenor soloist, conductor and educator.
A natural musician, Greer was always inclined toward music, but said he didn’t consider it as a career until his early 20s.
As a teacher, Greer started at a high school near Timmins, and moved back to Toronto to pursue his singing career.
Greer taught at Nelson A. Boylen and Bathurst Heights secondary schools, where the choirs won multiple awards.
“By then I was launched; I had a singing career going at the same time,” said Greer, who also worked as a tenor soloist specializing in oratorio and concert songs.
Greer moved to Orillia in 1975. With a love of speed boating, he had always wanted to live on the water and moved to a house on Lake Couchiching two years later.
“(The move) added to my singing career; it added a conducting and teaching component I hadn’t really paid much attention to before,” said Greer.
The Orillia resident led Tuesday night rehearsals for The Cellar Singers, a choir of about 60, from 1977 until May.
Greer has been the organist and director of music at St. James’ Anglican Church for more than 30 years.
In 1990, Greer founded the Couchiching Youth Singers, which he directed for six years.
“Moving to Orillia, while in some ways it may have shortened my career as a singer, it certainly gave me a chance to make a contribution and teach people how to perform choral music at a very high level,” said Greer.
He said over the years choir members became good friends to he and his wife of 27 years, Nynka.
Greer sets the bar high when conducting and directing.
“I always teach to the most advanced kids and the others learn,” said Greer, adding if you teach to the lowest level the most talented musicians move on.
Greer isn’t what one would call a strict disciplinarian; he said it’s important to be yourself when teaching.
“I’ve always been known for conducting in a clear way,” said Greer, noting that is key when teaching high school students.
“As a singer, I had watched countless conductors,” said Greer, who has performed with the Toronto Symphony.
“I had some fine conducting to go by… I learned by sitting there and watching other people, sometimes watching them make a mistake,” he said.
Greer also taught part-time at York University for 25 years.
In 2002, Greer was awarded the Presidents Leadership Award by Choirs Ontario.
Greer has performed with major choirs and orchestras for more than four decades nationally and internationally.
Greer said he doesn’t sing as often now but has performed as a soloist with The Cellar Singers since his retirement and will perform in London this summer.
“You never know what’s around the corner, and I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Greer, who has only ever cancelled one or two rehearsals.
“My success is due not only to what I did, but to what all the people who I’ve had the pleasure of working with (have done),” said Greer.