Those who spent their lunch hour along the one-way section of Fraser Highway on Friday, July 13 received a special, musical treat from the Yes’m Quartet.
The a capella group — made up of members Joyce Gram (tenor), Louise VanNoort (lead), Nancy Stewart (bass) and Patti Thorpe (baritone) — strolled up and down the street, entertaining passersby with their harmonious voices to celebrate Barbershop Appreciation Day and the 73rd anniversary of Sweet Adelines International.
Sweet Adelines is a network of women barbershop singers that has member choruses around the world.
The Yes’m Quartet is a branch of the larger Westcoast Harmony Chorus in Surrey, which is a Sweet Adelines member.
Featuring more than 60 singers, Westcoast will be travelling to St. Louis, Mo. in the fall to compete at the Sweet Adelines International annual convention.
The chorus has already earned many accolades over the years, including the title of best mid-sized chorus in the world in 2013. The group recently placed first at the Region 26 competition at Chandos Pattison Auditorium in Surrey, which entitles them to compete against 35 other choruses internationally in the fall.
“We like to sing and this form of singing is a real challenge, it’s not easy,” said Gram. “And some of us are experienced, some of us are very inexperienced and have learned everything in the last few years about this art form. And we get a lot of pleasure and fun and camaraderie out of it.
“It’s amazing how much people enjoy listening to us. I think most people have never heard barbershop, certainly not seen it live and in front of them. And I think they’re amazed, frankly. So that’s great fun for us. We watch the faces and it’s just — whew. It brings it all to life.”
Westcoast Harmony has members ranging in age from 13 to 80 years old who all sing together, noted Thorpe.
“I’ve been teaching music for 25 years, (and) I learn something every single week from chorus, it’s never failed,” she said.
“It’s a great challenge every time, and we have the opportunity to travel and meet new people.”
“And sing for other people and make people happy and bring some sunshine into people’s lives,” VanNoort added.
Although fun, this style of singing can be very difficult, VanNoort said.
“We have to really be on our pitch because it’s 100 per cent a capella, no instruments,” she said. “So it’s our voices that are conveying the message and all of the chords that we make need to be on pitch.”
“It is the close harmonies that … make it magical (but) you have to work at it,” added Stewart. “It doesn’t come easily all the time.”