Samantha Taylor leads workshop participants in vocal exercises during Saturday first a capella festival in Harrison Hot Springs.

A Cappella Singing in Harrison

Harrison's own Ruth Altendorf sings the praises of new a capella festival

Harrison has now – thanks to Samantha Taylor and the Harrison Festival Society – not only an A Cappella Choir, but also an A Cappella Festival!

Needless to say that we are richer for it and everyone who attended last weekend’s Festival will agree.

“A cappella” – meaning “as in chapel” singing – is the purest form of singing. Unaccompanied by any instruments and with a minimum of obvious direction, it only requires self control and a good feel for music. The history of a cappella singing dates back a long time and has recently experienced a surge of interest and a world-wide come back.

Last week’s Festival Concert here in Harrison Hot Springs featured six groups of different sizes and styles. “Abby Road”, for instance, is a well polished four men group from Abbotsford, B.C., a prime sample of excellent Barbershop singing. “The Chilliwack Harmony Chorus” – also a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society – is not only much larger, but achieves an interesting sound by adding some female voices to the otherwise largely male choir.  Both these groups are well established and well known.

“Home Cooking” is a medium sized mixed choir that has been singing together for over 10 years. Based in East Vancouver, they are directed by Karla Mundy and Samantha Taylor. During last week’s concert, they gave a sample of diverse songs such as Folksongs, Blue Grass and Gospel songs – a very interesting group!

But, on to our own Agassiz based “Valley Roots Community Choir” which was started only four years ago by Samantha Taylor who teaches them diverse a cappella arrangements by ear – a technique which makes music easy to learn without prior knowledge of music reading etc. They are looking for more members and should you be interested – please e-mail valleyrootschoir@gmail.com.

Something new and surprising was the last group of the program, the newly formed and locally based “Green Mountain Quintet”. Three men and two women – all accomplished solo performers in their own rights – certainly give a cappella singing a new twist and the result is surprising and exciting!

I suppose Samantha Taylor is also hugely responsible for the success of the newly formed “Festival Mass Choir”  which provided a finale of African songs at the end of the first part of the concert.

I am sure we will see and hear more about a cappella singing in the Valley soon and, as I wrote before, we will be richer for it!