Special to The Morning Star
Sylvain Vallee recently finished recording the practice tracks to Bohemian Rhapsody for his a cappella pop choir.
The international mega-hit, written by Freddie Mercury, was recorded in 1975 by the British band Queen.
“We are different than other choirs,” said Vallee, who is the music director of Valley Harmony in Vernon. “The focus is popular music, fun music to perform in a fun atmosphere. But also for someone who is up for a challenge and wants to work a little harder.”
Vallee directs three a cappella pop choirs in the Thompson-Okanagan: Valley Harmony in Vernon, The Coppertones in South Shuswap, and River Harmony in Kamloops. All three groups combined to perform year-end concerts in each community last May. They donated more than $2,000 from the proceeds to charities in Vernon and Kamloops.
Vallee started his first group in Lumby about seven years ago, after a man who had sung pop a cappella at the coast approached him. A cappella means to sing without instrumental accompaniment.
“The idea was to do something different,” said Vallee. “Local choirs were all singing classical and church music and typical choir repertoire.”
He records practice tracks for soprano, alto, tenor and bass (SATB) mixed voices, so that choir members can sing along on their smart phone or tablet.
Bohemian Rhapsody will be split into nine parts. Songs include The Beatles, Billy Joel and more. The ability to read sheet music is helpful, but not required. Singers are expected to memorize the music and be “off book” for every performance.
Marv Friesen has been singing pop a cappella with Vallee since he began directing his first group.
“Sylvain puts together the MP3 learning tracks. I download them to a CD and play it in my car,” said the bass voice, who is looking forward to singing Bohemian Rhapsody. “If we each learn our parts, we can pull it off.”
One of the greatest benefits for Friesen has been the ability to perform confidently. He credits Vallee’s musical knowledge and skills, vocal range and fine-tuned ear.
“If one of us is slightly off, he can hear it. And the dynamics of the group keeps us coming back,” said Friesen. “We have a pretty good rapport, and that carries on when we go for coffee and a doughnut afterwards.”
Vallee invites new voices to audition for the fall session of Valley Harmony, which starts practising in September. Interested singers need to prepare a popular song from 1950 to modern times.
Some people are not a fit for the group, and Vallee can suggest music lessons.
“It is a very informal, very casual audition to see if they have pitch and can keep in rhythm,” said Vallee. “Everyone comes in with different abilities. I just want to get a feel for how they sing the song, a sense of where they are, how their voice sounds and where to fit them. That takes about 10 minutes, tops.”
To schedule an audition, contact Vallee by email at firstname.lastname@example.org