Words by Steven Pecar

For almost 40 years, it’s been “just us” performing across Mississauga and abroad. Actually, it’s been “Justus,” a play on words of course, an intimate name that instantly conjures the friendly and informal atmosphere that this vocal chorus has provided over the years.

The driving force behind Justus (the performing branch of Streetsville Musicorp Inc.), Gary Clipperton, formed the group back in 1975 when Mississauga was barely a year old but stretching out from its rural setting into the suburban force it was about to become.

Recognizing both the entertainment needs of new residents and the desire of like-minded people to perform show tunes and popular classics, Clipperton brought together polished singers, polished them up some more, and turned them loose on a city eager to be well pleased. And it was.

With hundreds of performances under their collective belts, it’s been a good run, yet one that is about to end. “We have one more year, and then we will be wrapping it up,” explains Clipperton from his Streetsville home. “We felt the 40th year would be a good time to end it. The time has come.”

While there is more than a touch of regret in his voice, Clipperton admits that as musical director, the time for him to put away his baton is near. The nonprofit charitable group will cease to exist.

Declining membership in the chorus, changes in musical tastes, and the desires of many to move on to other projects are reasons cited.

For Clipperton, it bookends an active career. His professional life has revolved around teaching in schools throughout Peel Region—in geography, not music. Not only has he helped shape young minds, but he has also helped shape our community.

Among other activities, Clipperton was a founding director of the Streetsville Bread & Honey Festival, a member of the committee that created the Meadowvale Theatre, and an original director of what was to become the Mississauga Food Bank. His roots run deep in this city. “These were needs that we recognized at the time,” he says. “I just did my part when it was needed.”

The Bread & Honey Festival has become one of the city’s most timehonoured traditions and the food bank speaks for itself. The Meadowvale Theatre has allowed local performing artists to come out of makeshift studios, high-school gymnasiums and backrooms to entertain new audiences in a professional setting.

Clipperton can attest to the need for local acts, in a city the size of Mississauga, to present themselves in a proper setting. “[Justus] used to perform in the Blue Flame Room in the Consumer’s Gas building on Burnhamthorpe (which is now a Provincial Courthouse),” says Clipperton. “That was really no place to play. We needed a place like the Meadowvale Theatre.”

But it’s his role with the Streetsville Musicorp and Justus that Gary Clipperton will forever be connected to. In its almost 40 years, Justus has done just about all a vocal group can do. The chorus has performed the national anthem at a Blue Jays game, marched in Santa Claus parades, entertained at numerous charitable events, and played for dozens of community groups. Clipperton himself was named Mississauga’s musician of the year in 1985.

The highlights are many, he says, but a tour of Northern Ontario literally put Justus on the musical map, and being asked to perform as part of the Mississauga delegation to Japan also stands out. “We really did accomplish quite a bit,” Clipperton says, upon reflection.

For now, Gary Clipperton has a year’s worth of music to plan for, one that includes a busy fall and winter. After that, he says, he’s going cold turkey.

“No more music after this,” he laughs. We’ll see.