The Cariboo Men’s Choir is preparing to celebrate 10 years as a unique musical voice at a wide range of community events, including fundraisers, concerts, festivals and special occasions.
They have delighted adjudicators at the Cariboo Arts Festival, inspired their first standing ovation and enjoyed both the music and the camaraderie from their very first note.
Directed by Carl Johnson, the group has performed for events like Remembrance Day, the Hough Memorial Parade of Choirs, the Rick Hansen anniversary tour, Tuba John’s Christmas, Hospice Memorial Tree, Mayor and Council at city hall and the annual Yuletide Dinner.
The choir is actively welcoming new members, and long-time participants say that joining has always been as easy as wanting to belong.
“It’s wonderful to sight-read but it’s not crucial; the important thing is to stand beside someone who does really well and ‘tag along’. In this group there is a great deal of tolerance for tagging along,” explained member Elmer Thiessen.
“To join, all you need enthusiasm and a willingness to participate; I don’t think there is any such thing as a person who can’t sing.”
The choir was born when several friends heard the Welsh Men’s Choir from Vancouver perform in Williams Lake, and afterwards sat around talking about it and said, “We should do this here.”
The friends phoned around asking other guys if they were interested and put a notice on the radio and in the newspaper. They said that from the beginning there were no restrictions; if you were interested in singing in a men’s choir you were welcome to join with no audition or experience required.
“Some of them had played musical instruments and some may have sung a bit, but many had no experience at all,” said choir manager Jim World.
“In the beginning director Carl Johnson had been teaching elementary band, so for the first year we sang a lot of kid’s music. Most in unison – lots of unison.
“The very first song in the first or second year where we actually sang harmony was in the song Frobisher Bay and when we first really heard the harmony, when it hit home, everybody has goose bumps, and that’s when we were hooked.”
Members explained that the group has a lot of influence on the song choices for the choir, but director Carl Johnson has the final word. He stated that a tune has to be melodious for all parts.”
We’re not interested in traditional, classical four-part harmony, barbershop quartet music that is very theoretical,” he said. “I want each of the men’s sections to sound melodious to each singer.”
Brian Lapoint has been singing with the group four years, and said that everybody joins for a different reason. “I used to sing beside my wife at church and one time she looked over at me and said, ‘You need discipline,’ so she sent me to Carl,” he explained.
World said that generally the only time men get together is around team sports, and the men’s choir is a very rare opportunity for a group of men to get together.
“Singing with a bunch of men with three or four part harmony is unique; when we sing at festival and often the adjudicator will be ‘blown away’ with a men’s choir in a town this size,” he continued.
Johnson said that he recognizes different learning styles, abilities and experience, using a flexible teaching style for the group.
“Everyone feels comfortable and successful,” he explained. “It’s very positive, with lots of mentorship, camaraderie and fun.”
The next opportunity to hear the Cariboo Men’s Choir will be on November 2 at the Williams Lake Pipe Band’s Celtic Ceilidh at Elks Hall. For more information about the Cariboo Men’s Choir, including rehearsal times and how to join, phone Jim World at 250-392-3679 or Carl Johnson at 392-2563.