The Shuswap Men’s Chorus was formed in 2007 for a special performance at a district Rotary conference in Salmon Arm and jelled as a regular choir in 2009.-Image credit: Ian Clay

Choirs go voice to voice

Shuswap Men’s Chorus and Tapestry Women’s Choir play off each other in concert

It’s a celebration with a challenging twist.

Armstrong’s Tapestry Women’s Choir and the Shuswap Men’s Chorus are going voice-to-voice in a concert to celebrate 10 years of singing in their respective choirs.

Opposites Attract is a lighthearted contest to see who can outdo whom in songs that will stir memories for many.

“We tried to choose music we could play off each other – fun music, period music, some of it is old,” laughs Mary Landers, one of two Shuswap Men’s Chorus directors. “For example, we’re using music from South Pacific.”

The men’s There’s Nothing Like Dame, will be countered by Tapestry’s rendition of “Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of my Hair.”

The concert will be performed by 35 men and 40 women, who will do four pieces together and will finish with the Log Driver’s Waltz, in which talented soprano Andrea Roberts will perform a “very difficult solo part.”

“There will be lots of fun repartee with a theme of black and white, yin and yang,” says Landers, again emphasizing the fun nature of the concert.

“Manly Men takes shots at women’s choirs and the tenors and the men take shots at each other too in this tongue-in-cheek, back and forth between men and women.”

And the theme will continue in numbers chosen to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday: The men will sing William’s Lake Stampede and the women’s choir will sing Cowboy Take Me Away.

Tapestry will also perform It’s the Girls, a medley of 1960’s girl group numbers from one of Bette Midler’s her latest CDs, while the men are contemplating adding a modicum of choreography to Calendar Girl.

“We’ve talked over the years about doing something with two groups and she approached me and said ‘let’s do it this year,’” says Landers of Deborah Mehes, who leads the women’s choir. “The things about this concert is the familiar music that we know, love and remember. There aren’t many pieces people haven’t heard before.”

Landers and Mehes are both retired music teachers who were loathe to give up sharing their expertise or the sound of a choir.

Mehes founded the Tapestry Women’s Choir and has a smaller ensemble and children’s choir too.

“She sang in the Phoenix Chamber Choir in Vancouver – she has good vocal chops and taught in Burnaby before coming to School District #83,” says Landers.

Landers is equally effusive in her praise for co-director Jean MacLennan and her contribution to the men’s chorus since 2013.

“She has been the choral conductor of the First United Church for 30 years, which is impressive,” Landers says. “She organizes all the concerts for the award-winning choirs from Kathoaumixw when they visit Salmon Arm every other summer.”

Landers’ career as a music teacher spanned 33 years, first in senior high in Delta, then junior high in Vernon, followed by a stint at the high school level in Salmon Arm and a long stretch as an elementary music teacher in School District #83.

What the women also have in common is the emphasis on fun and collaboration filled with laughter.

“Both Mary and I are of the same mind; make sure our members are having a really good time and put the same amount of care and attention on our audiences having a good time,” says Mehes.

“The other thing is, the people in the choir like that fun factor… the men are full of fun and cheeky, but they are good men,” says Landers. “There’s not one of them that wasn’t successful in their careers. Even though they like fun, they also want to strive, and you get the same thing from the women.”

Mehes concurs, noting Tapestry members enjoy each other’s talents and company and are committed to the choir.

“Once you start rehearsing, they are doing it right away,” says Mehes. “They are also successful people who strive for excellence in their own lives and are interested in doing the best job that they can.”

Both groups like to get involved in helping the community. Tapestry has taken on two significant fund raising events in the last two years, a pin-up calendar that raised almost $6,000 dollars for the mammography unit at VJH and a raffle of items hand-crafted by choir members that raised $2,500 for the refugee family sponsored by the community. The Men’s Chorus supports youth and music in Salmon Arm with two $1,000 every year in graduation scholarships.

Both choirs have a strong core membership who return every year to sing together, not only for the music and the many health benefits of singing, but also for the cameraderie that supports each other in good times and bad.

Opposites Attract plays out at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 29 at the Armstrong Bible Chapel, 2145 Rosedale Ave. and at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 3 at the Nexus at First United Church in Salmon Arm.

Tickets are $15 each and for the Armstrong performance are available at the Brown Derby and Your Dollar Store and More. Tickets for the Salmon Arm concert are available at The Pink Cherry and Shuswap Men’s Clothing and Shoes.


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