After a series of warm up exercises and vocal stretching, the choir members settle into their rehearsal. First up – a song called Dragon Fly – sung in Japanese. And this choir is a youth choir which is still in its infancy.
Singing teacher Melanie McKinnon and music aficionado Bev Haluschak were committed to the concept of a youth choir but they knew it would require a great deal of legwork.
Melanie said they were so fortunate that Bev was a wiz with the paperwork and set up the InSong Quesnel Youth Choir non-profit society.
“We felt it was important that we report to a board and we wanted parents to trust us with their children,” Melanie said.
“We wanted to be totally accountable.”
The next step was getting the word out and inviting youth to have a look at this new extra-curricular activity.
With great support from BC Choral Federation and a gentle but firm approach to teaching the children how to successfully be a part of a choir, Melanie and Bev began rehearsals. They now have 21 choir members, two boys and 19 girls (they hope to encourage more males to give choir a try.) Ages range from 9 – 14 years old.
Someone else who has come on board to help and mentor this fledgling group is Margo Rose, who is delighted to see a youth choir flourish after a 22-year absence.
“This choir is progressing at breakneck speed,” she said with a big smile.
Melanie has taken on the role of conductor and said the first time she stood in front of the group she was incredibly nervous, but has settled down and now quite enjoys it.
“The choir is my instrument and I play them,” she said.
Bev continues to be the organizing guru and keeps everyone on track.
When the students arrive there are snacks waiting for them and they have about 45 minutes to de-compress from their day before the are required to sing.
“We take that time to focus the kids, somedays it a tough day for some of the kids and they need a little TLC,” Bev said.
Margo summed the leadership up by saying, “under Melanie’s leadership and Bev’s organizing this choir is doing wonderful.”
Some of the choir members offered insight into why they joined.
“I like to sing and wanted to improve my skills.”
“In a choir if you mess up no one will notice.”
“I’ve always been nervous to perform but each time we sing in public I’m a little less nervous.”
Bev explained that choir is not about individual voices but the blending of all the voices and that’s Melanie’s job to make that blend sound as good as it can sound.
“I think everyone can sing,” Melanie said.
“However, I’m interested in providing a lifelong appreciation of music to these kids.”
The choir is also a safe, social place for these students
to meet new friends, learn new skills and contribute to their community with their voices.
“Its a good feeling to be part of something successful,” Margo said.
“And it’s so much more gentle than sports.”
Bev added they are also working on teaching the choir members to be non-judgemental and accepting everyone for who they are.
Right now Melanie and Bev are working on the choir’s sound and preparing for some performances, however in
the future they’d like to
organize retreats where their choir meets with other choirs and spend quality time singing.
The InSong Quesnel Youth Choir has several dates for performances and activities before they break for summer at the end of May.
They performed with Q City Singers May 6, are holding an open rehearsal May 9 where choir members are encouraged to bring a friend to experience choir (another is planned for September at the beginning of season two); on May 15 they will perform at the Evening of the Stars, Quesnel Festival of the Performing Arts wrap up; and finally InSong will perform for the residents of Dunrovin Park Lodge and Maeford Place May 16 before wrapping up their first season with a pizza party.
Anyone looking for information on InSong Youth Choir can contact Bev Haluschak 250-992-6154.