Manitoulin Community Choir presents annual spring concert

The Manitoulin Community Choir, led by Jane Best, held its annual spring concert last weekend at Kagawong’s Park Centre. photo by Sharon Jackson

KAGAWONG—After a dozen years, Jane Best and her choir continue to draw a full house for its spring concert. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Manitoulin Community Choir had to reschedule the evening of folk and spiritual themed songs from Saturday (April 28) to last Friday, May 4.

Ms. Best led them in the first song, ‘El Condor Pasa,’ which is an Andean folk song adapted by Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkle). Heather Scott, who is new to the choir, accompanied them on the flute.

Ms. Best welcomed the audience by saying, “Thank you so much for coming tonight. When we had to cancel last Saturday I had to ask my choir to sing after having worked all day. It is an honour to have you here.”

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“Planning for our spring concert,” shared Ms. Best, “began last May. During the early conversations with the choir, we wanted to include more songs about freedom and peace. Folk music has a crossover with spiritual songs.”

What started out softly soon became an anthem as they belted out ‘Soon Ah Will be Done’ by William L Dawson. The lyrics speak about the troubles of the world; wanting to “meet my mother and Jesus” and “going to live with God.”

Brazeal W. Dennard’s ‘Hush! Somebody’s Callin’ my Name’ featured a duet by Dan Thompson and Theresa Webb. Mr. Dennard, who was a choral director and musical arranger, helped move the African-American spiritual beyond the confines of the church, exposing not only the beauty of this music, but also its historical importance to a wider audience.

‘If I Had a Hammer’ was made famous by Peter Paul and Mary in 1963. “The song was actually written in 1949 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hayes in 1949,” explained Ms. Best. The version sung by her choir was closer to the original song.

‘The House on Spruce Head Island’ written by Laurie Riley and arranged by Ms. Best tells a story of harpists and their harps being sent across the frigid Maine waters. In Don Nelson’s absence Paul Best filled in to accompany Janelle Addison during their solo. (Mr. Best also filled in for others who were unable to attend due to the change in date.)

The men took a seat as the Ladies Chorus sang ‘Moon at the Ruined Castle.’ Originally written in Japanese by Rentaro Taki, the song is an ancient Japanese children’s folk song inspired by the ruins of Oka Castle. The lyrics, written by Bansui Soi, were inspired by the ruins of Aoba Castle and Aizuwakamatsu Castle.

‘There is More Love Somewhere,’ an African-American hymn, speaks of peace and joy—again Mr. Best takes a solo part.

“The next two songs,” shared Ms. Best, “have a different take on the same theme: how to leave our troubles behind. Last Saturday. I had a hard time with no complaints whatsoever. I chose the song,” she quipped, “I had to learn. The song tells us how to trust we are loved and looked after. I am not at that point in my life where I have no complaints whatsoever. Maybe someday.”

Following a short intermission, the choir was back to perform a Benny Goodman song from 1936: ‘The Glory of Love’ written by Billy Hay. It was later re-recorded by Otis Redding.

‘I Got the Sun in the Morning (and the Moon at Night)’ is a song from the 1946 musical ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ written by Irving Berlin and originally sung by Ethel Merman. It also sung by Doris Day and Judy Garland.

Kyle Burt was spectacular during his solo parts in ‘Lean on Me/Everlasting Arms.’

Peter Gordon took a lead solo role in ‘Stand By Me,’ written by Ben E King and Leiber Stoller.

Ms. Best introduced the next song by saying, “one of the fun things I get to do is choose a lot of music. It’s fun for the choir as they are happy to take on a challenge. ‘Freedom Song,’ stated Ms. Best, “has a classic theme with modern words.”

‘Turn the World Around’ was written by Harry Belafonte, who spent time in both Jamaica, his homeland, and New York City where he attended high school, joined the Navy and then worked in the restaurant business. “He brought classic music to a place where we could all hear it.” Ms. Addison accompanied the choir on drum while two friends joined them on stage as well

‘The Lord Loves a Laughing Man’s’ lyrics go something like this: “The Lord loves the man who sings, that’s one of his favourite things, just sing whenever you can, the Lord loves a singing man, a man who laughs and a man who sings leaves happiness everywhere, he who has a happy heart is richer than a millionaire, so laugh, sing and praise the Lord, these are things anyone can afford, come on laugh whenever you can, the Lord loves a laughing man.”

The last song of the evening, ‘May Sunshine Light Your Way,’ written by Sally K. Albrecht and Jay Althouse, is a touching ballad of parting, benediction-like, in the tradition of an Irish blessing.

Ms. Best thanked everyone for attending and said “please join us here at the end of November for our annual Song and Cider concert. Also watch for a special event in Mindemoya in March of 2019 as we host the Elmer Iseler Singers in concert, including joining them on stage with the Island Singers for a few songs.”

Manitoulin Community Choir is Janelle Addison, Marlene Brynildsen, Mary Buie, Dawna Chartrand, Sandy Cook, Lori Evans, Johnny Fletcher, Janice Frame, Debbie Graham, Susan Garlock, Vanessa Glasby, Stephanie Burt Hillyard, Judith Jones, Judy Land, Diane Larocque, Heather Scott, Terry Thompson, Mary-Jo Tracy, Theresa Webb, Linda Willson, Paul Best, Kyle Burt, Peter Gordon, Don Nelson, John Robertson, Eric Thiessen, Dan Thompson and Chuc Willson.