The little white church on Marine Drive in Port Alice fills with beautiful harmonies when the choir group ‘Sisters of Song’ gathers to practice once a week.
“This is our one hour a week where we can just come and have fun,” said Coun. Marnie Chase, a member of the choir, who joked that a lot of their time together is spent laughing rather than practicing their vocals.
“I think the first two or three practices we had we spent 45 minutes busting a gut laughing,” said choir director Courtney Friggstad, adding, “then we started progressively doing more singing, but yeah, it’s lots of fun and that’s why the ladies love coming out.”
The choir is a year-and-a-half-old and is comprised of five women from the community, including Chase and members Angela Hagen, Angela Murray, Lee Aldis and Denise Obidowski.
“I teach music part time so I teach one-on-one piano and singing lessons,” said Friggstad, who started the choir shortly after she moved to Port Alice from Saskatchewan. Chase was the one who had asked her if she would be willing to start a choir in the community, and “Once my season was done with my first set of students I decided to go ahead with making this choir,” said Friggstad.
She said some women came to the choir with singing experience, but there were others who had no experience.
“I didn’t want to leave anyone out of this because I wanted it to be a fun environment where we could just enjoy each other’s company,” said Friggstad, adding that learning how to sing in a group setting is less challenging for some people.
“Singing lessons on their own can be quite intimidating, so this helps to calm that fear for a lot of people,” said Friggstad.
The ladies’ love for singing is infectious, they even serenade one of their consistently late members with a rendition of “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes” as soon as she walks in the door.
The Sisters of Song sing a mix of popular songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and more traditional hymns like “Kumbaya” or “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
Friggstad said she takes into consideration what the choir members like and if two out of three disagree, then they move on to something else.
For an upcoming performance, the choir is singing the mid-1960s hit “Smile on Your Brother” by the Youngbloods, which is actually choir member Aldis’ favourite song from her youth.
Aldis and Friggstad have also both written original songs that the choir has performed.
Friggstad wrote the song Winter’s Lament, an ode to struggling through a North Island winter, which even references the difficult 21-mile hill on Highway 30, also known as the Frigon Road.
“Music is an extreme source of joy for a lot of people,” said Friggstad, adding that the choir is “a positive thing for the community right now, especially with the pulp mill being down.”
She also noted she thinks the choir is important because, “the North Island doesn’t have as many arts services or music as they do in Nanaimo or Victoria, so it’s important to make sure we have that here as well.”
The Sisters of Song performed a recital at the White Church on Marine Drive, on Sunday, Nov. 19, where they raised $419 for the Port Alice Fire Department. They will also be singing at the annual Christmas Tree light up in Port Alice at 7 p.m. on Nov. 26.