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Whistler choirs kick off new season

Warm up your lungs and join Barbed Choir, Whistler Singers or (for younger talent) the Whistler Children's Chorus this fall

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When Toronto's Choir! Choir! Choir! performed as part of the Whistler Presents Summer Concert Series in August, it attracted throngs of Whistlerites to Whistler Olympic Plaza where they released inhibitions to gleefully sing pop songs in unison.

For some, the singalong marked their first time singing in public with a group. But amongst that crowd were members of three local choirs that perform in the community throughout the year.

"I think something like that just reminds people they enjoy singing," says Jeanette Bruce, who leads both Barbed Choir and the Whistler Children's Chorus. "It's been beneficial to both the Whistler Singers and Barbed Choir to make people realize, 'Oh yeah, I actually do love singing with a group.' There's something very therapeutic about it."

Barbed Choir, The Whistler Children's Chorus and Whistler Singers all recently started up a new season and are open to new members. If the community singalong inspired you, read on to see what each group offers.

Barbed Choir

Heading into its third year, Barbed Choir now has at least one wedding proposal under its belt.

Last winter, a visitor from the U.K. contacted Bruce—after Googling "Whistler choirs"—to see if the group could help him pop the question to his girlfriend. In less than a week, she cobbled together a group of about 12 singers and they gathered in the village to sing "Isn't She Lovely."

"He and his friends, with his potential fiancé, came down the stroll. They stopped to listen and she was obviously really enjoying it. Then he got down on one knee and proposed (while) we held up signs that said, 'Marry me,'" Bruce recalled.

The show was a bit of a one-off; the point of the group isn't really to perform in public. Rather, in the vein of Choir! Choir! Choir!, they gather once every two weeks to sing together just for fun.

In total, they have 30 to 40 regulars, with 15 to 20 people at any given session. They gather every second Sunday—with the next being Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.—at the Whistler Public Library in the fall and winter and at The Point Artist-Run Centre in spring and summer.

After a season tackling songs by male artists, the group is planning to cover female-fronted acts this year. That will range from ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me" to Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide."

"We're really trying to pick songs that already have great vocal harmonies," Bruce says. "Any genre is fair game, across generations, across genres. We do a different song every time. There's no carry over; it's a standalone session."

Whistler Children's Chorus

Founded by local music teacher Alison Hunter 26 years ago, Bruce officially received the reins for this group last month after two years of mentoring.

"I feel like I've been really well prepared the last two years," Bruce says. "We chose a lot of the music together last year. She's done a great job preparing me."

The last two years, they've also hosted the Kinderchoir for five weeks in May and June to allow kids finishing kindergarten to try out choir and decide if they'd like to join the group in the fall.

As a result, the singers this year are "mostly in Grade 1 and 2, but we do have some in Grade 3," Bruce says.

New this year, practice will take place every Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Whistler Public Library where Bruce works. The sessions will be completely free, thanks to the new partnership.

"(The library was) looking for more after-school programming and looking for more music literacy programming," she says. "It made sense for me to wear both hats."

Members of the group—which include kids up to Grade 7—will perform alongside the Whistler Singers at this year's Remembrance Day service, as well as at several Christmas concerts—including on Dec. 9 at the library at 5 p.m.

"As soon as Remembrance Day is over, we're in full holiday mode," Bruce adds. "We have a lot of repertoire to prepare."

Potential new members are welcome to drop in throughout October. For more, email youthservices@whistlerlibrary.ca.

Whistler Singers

The Whistler Singers—Whistler's longest-running choir—has seen plenty of growth in recent years.

"We started at the beginning of September and I had to do another 10 binders," says Alison Hunter, director of the group, referring to the binders of sheet music. "We had 41 people."

While the group runs in two "terms"—one before Christmas and one after Christmas—last year, they retained around 35 people for the quieter spring session.

The youngest member is 16 and the oldest is in their 90s—and they have a lot of fun, Hunter says. "I give them a break at 8 p.m. and with the talking and socializing, oh man, it's hard to get them back!" she says. "It's really cool that way. It's a range of ages."

The group meets every Tuesday night at the Myrtle Philip Community Centre from 7 until 9 p.m. and it's open to everyone—despite singing experience. They are still accepting members until Oct. 9 (though Hunter hints they're flexible on that deadline, particularly if you can read music and have experience in a choir).

First up is the Remembrance Day concert, followed by a showcase on Dec. 7 at the Audain Art Museum ahead of the annual Christmas Eve Service.

Throughout the year, "we do a broad range of music—some early renaissance, some classical," Hunter says. "We do some pop and Broadway musical stuff and folk tunes and contemporary songs."

For more visit whistlersingers@gmail.com.

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