The ‘Olympics’ of the singing world

The award-winning Lions Gate Chorus is looking for new members to join the ensemble.

The Lions Gate Chorus competes at Sweet Adelines International in 2015.

The Lions Gate Chorus competes at Sweet Adelines International in 2015.

If you are a woman who loves to sing a cappella, there is a group for you.  The award-winning Lions Gate Chorus is looking for new members to join the ensemble.

The singing group is comprised of 80 to 100 members who compete in four-part a cappella harmony in the Sweet Adelines International Competition, held once every two years.

The next competition is in October 2017, but the group is preparing for it now.

Musical director Sandy Robinson Marron, who has been a director of the chorus since 1991, describes the competition as the Olympics of the singing world.

Sweet Adelines International is the world’s largest singing organization for women, boasting 23,000 members from five continents.

Lions Gate Chorus has been chosen to represent western Canada 12 times in the competition and has placed in the Top 5 over the past 10 years.

The four-part harmony is made up of tenors, who have the highest voices in the group, the leads, who generally carry the melody, the baritones and the bass.

“You generally need a year to prepare. It’s a lot of work,” said Mary Pappajohn, a lead in the group.

Members of the chorus come from as far away as Sooke, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, for the once-a-week practice. There is also somebody who comes from Smithers and one person who travels over the border from Washington State.

“We’ve got quite a variety of people, different areas, different backgrounds, different ages. It’s a really diverse group of women,” said Pappajohn.

Liz Loop of Maple Ridge has been with the group for just over a year.

“I’ve always been in choir since elementary school, high school and then I took a year of music at Douglas College, but didn’t pursue it,” said Loop, a baritone in the group.

Before she joined, she was singing with her church choir and was hired for the odd wedding or funeral.

Last year she met another mother at her daughter’s preschool who told her about the ensemble.

The chorus rehearses in Vancouver, but it was only five minutes away from Loop’s parents’ place, where her family was temporarily living until their house was built in Maple Ridge.

“So she said, ‘Come out and visit.’ I did and I was hooked,” said Loop, adding that after a few weeks her stress levels were lower and she felt like she was in a much better mood.

Even her family could sense the difference in her personality.

She decided that when her family finally made the move to Maple Ridge she would continue to attend the practice.

“I decided I am just going to make it work. I’ll commute and I do,” said Loop.

To join the group, you first have to attend a rehearsal, then pass an audition. Loop knows people who have had help until they could pass the audition.

“They provide a lot of opportunity for learning until you can officially join,” she said.

The group performs in the barbershop style and covers jazz, contemporary a cappella or pop music and show tunes from 100 years ago to modern day.

Loop is reenergized after every rehearsal.

“We joke about having insomnia afterwards because we are all, like, hyped up,” said Loop, joking that when she returns home after rehearsal is when she gets the most work done.

Being able to stand in the middle of the chorus, for her, is a rush.

“It’s one of things I tell my friends, ‘You’ve got to come and experience it because it’s just this big wave of energy,’” Loop said.

“You get goose bumps.”

The Lions Gate Chorus will be holding an open house from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the Salvation Army building at 3403 East 49th Avenue at Tyne Street in Vancouver.

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