Our Musical Directors

Ryan Billington 2017 -- Present

Photo Cresit: Corey Katz

Ryan Billington is a versatile vocalist, arranger and conductor. Since 2004, he has taught private voice, choral/vocal jazz ensembles and various classes in the music department at St. Francis Xavier University including, Vocal Improvisation, Songwriters and their Songs, Songwriting Workshop, Women and Popular Music. His main areas of interest are jazz/pop vocal performance, vocal pedagogy, choral ensemble direction and arranging for small vocal ensemble settings.  In 2011, his student vocal ensemble EXTRA from StFX was featured nationally on CBC Radio 2 Choral Concert with host Peter Togni. 

Ryan completed a Master of Music in Voice performance and Jazz at Western Michigan University in 2002.  Prior to his appointment at StFX, Ryan performed as a professional choral singer in Toronto with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and other choral ensembles. In more recent years, Ryan has performed across Atlantic Canada in jazz, oratorio, musical theatre and choral settings. 

Recent original compositions of Ryan’s include “Atacama, Gateway to the Stars” written for Toronto mezzo-soprano Ali Garrison and piano (2015), and original music for plays by American playwright Sarah Ruhl – Eurydice (Theatre Antigonish 2017), and Stage Kiss (Festival Antigonish 2017). 

Ryan has been serving as Artistic Director and Conductor for the Cape Breton Chorale since 2017. 

Rosemary McGhee (Interim Conductor) 2015 -- 2017

Rosemary McGheeA native of York, England, Rosemary McGhee graduated from the 'Guildhall School of Music and Drama' in London and gained a Certificate of Education from the 'University of London' Institute of Education. She holds a diploma in Kodaly Education.

After teaching in northern England, Ms. McGhee came to Canada, settling in Cape Breton as a music educator in 1974. Since that time she has taught music at the elementary, junior high and high school levels within the jurisdiction of the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board.

Throughout her career Ms. McGhee endeavoured to foster the development of choral music, conducting choirs at all age levels and acting as accompanist for the Cape Breton Youth Choir for nine years. She undertook the role of assistant conductor of the Nova Scotia Youth Choir for two years and acted as accompanist for a summer camp organized by the Nova Scotia Choral Federation.

Ms. McGhee has been a member of the 'Cape Breton Chorale' since 1974. In the recent decade she has provided extensive sectional leadership for the men's voices and, in 2011, she assumed the greater role of Assistant Conductor of the 'Chorale'. She has directed the senior choir at St. Anthony Daniel Parish in Sydney for thirty-four years. In her capacity as church musician she has conducted many combined choirs of the Antigonish Diocese and given workshops in choral music.

Since retiring from teaching in 2006, Ms. McGhee has continued to pursue an active role in the field of choral music.

Sister Rita Clare (Founding Conductor)1973 -- 2014, (Conductor Emeritus) 2015 -- 2017

Sister Rita Clare Dedicated to the love of music and the pursuit of excellence in its teaching, Sister Rita Clare was recognized as an outstanding educator.

She completed a Master of Arts degree in Music and Music Education at Columbia University in New York and pursued further studies at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, the Saratoga Potsdam Choral Institute, New York, and the Voice Care Network, Collegeville, Minnesota. She has been associated with workshops with such outstanding conductors as Sir David Willcocks, Dr. Elmer Iseler and Jon Washburn.

Until her retirement, she was the Supervisor of Fine Arts for the Cape Breton District School Board. She is past director of the Holy Angels Chorale and the Cape Breton Youth Choir, and is the founding and current director of the Cape Breton Chorale.

Under her direction, the Cape Breton Chorale has been recognized nationally and internationally for its artistic performances.

Sister Rita Clare's efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 1985, she was made an Honorary Citizen of the City of Sydney. The Government of Nova Scotia expressed its gratitude for her work in organizing and conducting a two hundred voice choir organized for the Jeux Canada Games in 1987. Also, in 1992 she received a commemorative medal on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

She is an honorary life member of the Nova Scotia Music Educators Association (1998) and the Nova Scotia Choral Federation (1998) as well as well as the Jubilate Award of Merit presented by the Canadian Music Educators Association in recognition of significant contribution to Music Education in Canada (2005).

One of Sister's most cherished awards is the degree of Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa in 1991 from the University College of Cape Breton recognizing her as a "leader in the Arts in Cape Breton and a foremost promoter of music education in Nova Scotia."