You don’t have to be a Gleek to sing

Performers jump on bandwagon with new glee club in Vernon.

Thérèse Parent

Thérèse Parent

You could say that Thérèse Parent and Julie Armitage were inspired by a curly-haired Spanish teacher who loves the music of Journey and Broadway musicals.

The Vernon-based women have followed the exploits of Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and the glee club he re-starts at his local high school, where mostly socially maligned students –– and a few football jocks and cheerleaders –– let out their inner voices to the chagrin of a certain cheerleading coach.

Yes, what started as a TV show is now a global phenomenon, with glee clubs popping up all over North America. And now Vernon is about to have one of its own.

A new endeavour held at the Vernon Community Music School, led by Parent and Armitage, Glee Vernon is for anyone who has a voice and wants to use it –– and it doesn’t matter if you are a show-woman (man) like Lady Gaga, shy like Barbra Streisand, have a unique rasp like Tom Waits, or have extreme stage fright and two left feet like… yours truly.

“This is an opportunity for everyone over 16. It’s great for people who want to be highlighted or who want to fade in the background. It’s a great platform for those who have the desire and even a fear of performing,” said Parent.

Both women have the credentials to help glee clubbers “express themselves” in their own “born this way” esthetic.

“It’s great to see glee clubs so popular again. My grandmother played piano in a glee club,” said Armitage. “This will be non-competitive and geared for all levels. It’s a show choir, so if you can hold a note, we will teach you everything else. They can learn harmony as they go.

“We want to make sure people have the basics, but mostly we want people to move, sing, and be able to have fun and not be intimidated.”

A vocal instructor at the Vernon Community Music School, Parent has both directed and acted in shows at Powerhouse Theatre. Also seen in local theatre productions, Armitage has worked as a music therapist and has sang in groups in Vancouver and in her hometown of Vernon.

Both women served as the vocal coaches for Powerhouse’s musical theatre presentation of Grease last season, and they want to encourage more musical opportunities.

“We’ve had people come up to us wanting to do more musicals. We have lots of opportunities geared towards children, and we feel there could be something more for adults,” said Armitage.

Not just singing, the glee club will also incorporate movement, characterization and theatricality into its rehearsals and performances, and Parent and Armitage have enlisted some people to help them.

Local rhythmic gymnast Melea Ward will work with club members on choreography, while Elishiva Phillips will accompany on piano.

“We’re really excited about the instructional component of singing with choreography, and you don’t need dance experience,” said Parent.

The club also plans to hold public performances at the end of each term, featuring a full band that will consist of well-known musicians.

“Our first show should take place halfway through January at Powerhouse, and we plan to do the music of Mamma Mia. There will be lots of harmony and crazy costuming,” said Armitage. “Once we know who we have in the club, we will get input and ideas for future shows. It doesn’t always have to be Broadway musicals, we could have a theme like music of Motown or a Canadian theme with the music of Rush, Loverboy and The Payolas.”

For those who secretly desire to become a Rachel Berry-like Broadway sensation,  the glee club is a good way to prepare for auditions for musical theatre productions, with a number of opportunities available throughout the Okanagan and beyond.

In fact, the club is planning on hosting two well-known directors, Neal Facey and Randy Leslie of Kelowna’s Actors Studio, to give a workshop on how to prepare for auditions.

Parent and Armitage will be holding their own “non-intimidating” auditions for the glee club, Sept. 10 and 11 at the Vernon Community Music School.

Anyone interested in registering or learning more about Glee Vernon can contact the Vernon Community Music School at 250-545-4977.