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Alberta glee club stuck in limbo over budget woes

Nineteen-year-old Jason Diodati (wearing baseball cap) performs during a rehearsal with the Youth Singers of Calgary, a performing arts opportunity for young people based in Calgary, Alberta.

Chris Bolin for The Globe and Mail/chris bolin The Globe and Mail

A popular Alberta glee club, which said it faced possible closure due to crushing budget woes, will have to wait until the new year to find out whether the city will offer it a financial lifeline.

But officials with Youth Singers of Calgary are confident that the non-profit group's remaining funding gap of about $300,000, which is a hangover from a costly renovation, will be bridged and promise that the show will go on.

"We're looking better and better all the time," said Dale Smith, group treasurer and board member. "It's definitely business as usual."

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The 26-year-old association, which has hundreds of members and has spawned the careers of professional singers and actors, embarked on an ambitious $1.8-million renovation to transform a vacant warehouse into rehearsal space without securing all of the fundraising in advance.

It then turned to City Hall for help when a $600,000 debt became crippling, but was turned down. As the group's situation went public, it received $250,000 from an anonymous donor and then other donations started rolling in.

The Calgary Arts Development Authority, or CADA, is now working out a capital loan, which would be a first for the city and would require Youth Singers to repay the funds.

Terry Rock, who is head of the city agency, said while due diligence is currently under way and a total amount hasn't been determined, he expects a decision by March. CADA views Youth Singers as an integral part of city life. It also provides arts space in a city starved for rehearsal room. Mr. Rock noted previously that Youth Singers officials likely preferred to have "done things differently" in terms of past finances, but he is optimistic for the future.

"They've been quite successful in digging themselves out," he said.

Youth Singers has 50 performances booked in December and its financial problems have not forced the cancellation of a single show.

Mr. Smith is also hopeful that funds will be raised both through donations and the support of City Hall.

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"The city's work with CADA and CADA's work with us looks very promising for some time early next year," Mr. Smith said.

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About the Author
Dawn Walton

Dawn Walton has been based in Calgary for The Globe and Mail since 2000. Before leaving Toronto to head West, she won a National Newspaper Award and was twice nominated for the Michener Award for her work with the Report on Business. More

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