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Chorus boasts 100 members

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The Kelowna Community Chorus, with special guests the Okanagan Harp Orchestra, will present Noel, Noel, Noel on Saturday.
The singers come from opposite ends of the spectrum, but happily meet in the middle when it comes time to raise their collective voice in song.
One is a newcomer, just months old to the group, while one other member of the Kelowna Community Chorus has been enjoying the view from the stage for 18 of the 20 years the chorus has existed.
Catherine Reardon and Kathie Barton are part of a chorus that has been going strong in the community since the mid-'90s, when it first appeared as an off-shoot of Okanagan College Continuing Education programming.
Since then, the group has grown to an impressive 100 members, who get together for a convivial song-fuelled session every week.
After weeks of "just having a lot of fun singing," as Barton noted, the chorus gets down to brass tacks and tackles two concerts, one in April and the other a Christmas-focused event.
This year, Noel, Noel, Noel will take place at the First Lutheran Church, with special guest harpist Caroline Mackay and the Okanagan Harpist Orchestra, with a ticket price of $12 for adults, which fits the pocketbook perfectly.
Music director, artistic director, founder and conductor Leroy Wiens, said he was "delightfully happy and very satisfied" with the chorus' longevity and its current burgeoning ranks, the 100 singers being a marked increase from the original six singers who appeared for the inaugural choir launch.
"It has grown considerably over the years and it appeals to people of all ages because we don't have any one style," he said. "We always do a variety of pieces - pop, showstoppers, folk songs, light jazz, some classical and some spiritual.
"The members come from all over town and up and down the valley, from the young to the retired, and there's no audition process. Anyone can come and join in, come and enjoy singing with a group of people who are like you - they like to sing."
For Reardon, new to Kelowna from Quadra Island, where she sang with a choir, it was "the perfect way to meet people of all different ages and abilities."
"It's not a church-based choir, it's non-denominational, not religious and an awful lot of fun once a week," she added. "Some people can't read music, others can, it doesn't matter. We're all there to have fun and enjoy singing together, in a non-judgmental way .
"The thing is, with a large choir, even if you haven't got the best voice, there's always someone else to cover for you. It's great," she added.
Many of those same reasons have kept Barton at rehearsals for decades, where she finds the once-a-week sessions like a "mental health break."
"You learn, you can challenge yourself musically, you can increase you ability," she said. "It's a wonderful atmosphere and I have always really liked the attitude of the people who are there singing. We credit our success to Leroy's teaching, his techniques, the way he makes learning fun."
Part of that fun atmosphere is knowing there is no "really big commitment" to numerous concerts throughout the year.
"It's just two events in the whole year," she said. "Other than that, you're with people who have a joy of singing, and do it with their heart."
Get-together rehearsals happen each Wednesday and take place at the First Mennonite Church Hall, which yields a great sound for large choral groups. Anyone with a passion for the power and fun behind the human voice is welcome to drop in and join the fun.
At the upcoming Noel, Noel, Noel concert, the chorus will perform a number of traditional Christmas carols, some Latin songs and promise to conjure up a lot of fun, while encouraging the audience to take up the spirit of the season by taking part in a casual sing-a-long.

What: Noel, Noel, Noel presented by the Kelowna Community Chorus, with special guests the Okanagan Harp Orchestra.
When: Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: First Lutheran Church, 4091 Lakeshore Rd.
Tickets: Available at Paramount Music or at the door; $12 adults and $6 children.

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