The Shuswap Singers performed June 2 at the Nexus in Salmon Arm. (Jim Cooperman photo)

Choir music steadfast part of Shuswap culture

Shuswap Passion/Jim Cooperman

There is no question about culture thriving in the Shuswap, given that Nexus on First had a full house for the recent spring concert by Shuswap Singers and the Shuswap String Orchestra, with the Jackson School Choir as special guest performers.

The Shuswap Singers have become a local institution, with a history that goes back to a night school course led by Tom Brighouse in the early 1960s.

His class became the Salmon Arm Choral Society, which held its first concert in 1962.

Ten years later, the choir was renamed Shuswap Singers because so many of the participants came from throughout the region.

Today, Brighouse still sings with the choir along with another of the original singers, Bert Revel. Joining Brighouse is his daughter Ruth and grandson, Ryan Ready.

Brighouse has many fond memories of his 58 years with the singers, including numerous trips to attend music festivals, two vinyl recordings and the spoof song the group sang at their 50th anniversary concert.

One time, when the group was returning from a festival in the U.S., a Canadian customs agent stepped into the bus and the choir burst into singing the national anthem.

The agent just asked the driver if they had anything to declare and when hearing there was nothing he waved them off.

Marcia Beckner has been with the choir for 41 years and has loved every minute of it.

She explained how the group practises once a week on Thursdays and has two performances a year, a Christmas performance and a spring concert.

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The singers pay a modest fee twice a year to cover costs, including the honorariums for the director and the pianist. Recently, the Barley Station has become a sponsor by helping cover the cost of the music.

The audience at the June 2 concert heard a diverse selection of music, ranging from classics to folk and popular songs.

The three groups combined for the last four songs as the sound of strings and voices filled the hall.

So why the success?

Beckner said she loves the creative energy combined with the physicality of singing and the social cohesiveness of the group.

Brighouse described how singing can be both transformative and therapeutic as he has seen how after joining the choir, people with muscular problems have had their problems ease because singing can release tension.

The success of The Shuswap Singers has helped spawn new groups such as the men’s choir, a senior’s choir, the Barbershop Project, the Intergenerational Choir and other groups.

The Shuswap Singers are open to everyone of high school age or over and there are no auditions required.


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