Heritage Highlights: Ben Horch - an early promoter of choral

Benjamin Horch made a big impact on music.

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By Marj Hildebrand – Benjamin Horch (19 November 1907-2 July 1992) was born in Freidorf, Russia, of Lutheran Pietist parents. The Horch family moved to Winnipeg, Canada, in 1909. They worshiped in the North End Mennonite Brethren Church where Benjamin became a member in 1926. The Horch family was a musical family and two of his brothers became professional musicians in Winnipeg. In 1932 he married Esther Hiebert. They had one daughter.
He began his teaching career as choral director and teacher of music theory at Winnipeg Bible Institute (7 years).
In 1934 be began a long career as Kurseleiter (choral clinician) for Mennonite churches in Canada.
He became well known for introducing new music to choirs and encouraging young musicians. For four years he studied at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA).
He returned to Manitoba where he directed music departments at Winkler Bible Institute (1943-44) and Mennonite Brethren Bible College, now Concord College (1944-55). During this time he founded and conducted the Mennonite Symphony Orchestra, and was an editor of the Mennonite Brethren Gesangbuch (1952).
In the mid-1950s he began working as a broadcaster in California and Manitoba, before becoming a music producer and consultant for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Winnipeg. During this time he commissioned the “Mennonite Piano Concerto”.
In 1943 Ben became chairman of the Music Department at the Winkler Bible School. He also conducted the local oratorio choir and orchestra in the high school.

Heritage Highlights, supplied by the Winkler Heritage Society, introduces readers to the people, places and things that still impact us today. The Winkler Heritage Museum is located in the Southland Mall and is open Tuesday to Friday, 12 to 4 p.m., Saturdays 10 am – 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday evenings. The Archives located in the Winkler Centennial Library are open Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m.. For appointments call archivist Ed Falk at 204-325-8929. The Stones and Stories binders are on display at both locations. Come for a visit! One way of showing support for the Winkler Heritage Society (Archives, Stones & Stories and Museum) is by becoming a member of the Society. Forms may be picked up at both the Archives and Museum.

Three Winkler girls dressed to sing in Ben Horch’s school choir in 1948. Left, Marjorie Wiebe, Helen Hildebrand, Nancy Enns. (WINKLER HERITAGE SOCIETY)

As the Winkler Collegian reports in 1949: The oratorio “Christ and His Soldiers” was presented in the Mennonite Brethren Church on Sunday, March 28, 1948 by the combined choirs of the Winkler Bible School and the Winkler Collegiate Institute, with the musical accompaniment being provided by the Winkler High School Orchestra. The large concourse of 180 choir members and 45 players was heard to advantage under the talented direction of Ben Horch, Winnipeg. (WINKLER HERITAGE SOCIETY)

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