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ABOUT THE CHOIR...

SYNERGY 150 DIRECTOR RECOGNIZED
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - Camlachie, Ontario
Marilyn Gladu
– Member of Parliament (Sarnia Lambton), presents Synergy 150
Choir Director Mary Jean Hansen with a Community Commendation Award
for her work with the community choir. See Sarnia Observer article: here

ABOUT THE CHOIR'S BEGINNINGS

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in May, a group of 50 people sit on church pews inside of Camlachie United Church's vast sanctuary while quietly studying sheets of music.

 

As Forest's Mary Jean Hansen enters the room and steps up in front of the group, standing behind her keyboard and music stand, pianist Lois Wellington begins playing the first few bars of John Lennon's Imagine on her piano. Hansen raises her hands and, in unison, the assembly of assorted vocalists rise to their feet and begin singing a ringing, rousing version of the late Beatles' iconic tune, with the sounds of the choir's collective voices reverberating of the walls of the church.

 

What is taking place at Camlachie United Church on this Wednesday is the weekly meeting of Synergy 150, a recently-formed community choir comprised of over 50 members from across Lambton County and beyond.

 

The community singing group got its start this past January – somewhat inauspiciously – in Hansen's living room in Forest.

 

“Forest used to have a choir called the Forest Community Singers. I wasn't a part of that group, but I attended a number of their performances. At the time I was music director at Forest United Church,” Hansen said. “But what happened was that they disbanded last December and at around the same time I retired as music director.”

 

With no community choir, several people in Forest began asking Hansen – a retired high school music teacher who said she has been directing choirs since the age of 12 – whether she would be interested in starting up another choir to fill Forest's musical void.

 

“You know, a community without music is dead. Sports are always big in small communities but you've really got to have music. So I sent out emails to all the members of the old choir and a few other people and invited them to come to my house. I expected about 12 people and I ended up with 19.”

 

Over the coming months, that number grew to 53 as word spread about the choir, with more and more people – from as far away Port Franks, Parkhill, Kettle Point and Arkona – interested in exercising their vocal chords.

 

The choir eventually settled on the name Synergy 150, Hansen said, to represent the large and unique collection of individuals of varying musical talents that have come together in the choir, as well as celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. The priority for Synergy 150 is having fun while making some wonderful music, she said.

 

“I told the group that there were a few specific things I wanted from this. Number one, that it's fun. I want music that's fun, I want our members to have fun and I want to sing music that people can identify with,” she said. “I told them I wanted to do 'decades' concerts, where we pick music from a decade and work it into an hour, an hour-and-a-half concert while holding it in an environment like the old coffeehouses, where people come for music and can sing along.”

 

Not only do choir members come from a variety of communities in and around Lambton County, Hansen said, but every member brings a diversity of musical background with them.

 

“We have teachers, we have clerics, we have retirees and several read music but just as many don't. But what they all have in common is they're enthusiastic, they're learning and they're having fun.”

 

As for songs, the choir is becoming familiar with a whole host of songs from different eras, from vintage songs stemming from Canada's pre-Confederation era to more contemporary fare such as the Piano Man, the Rose and selections from Paul Anka's teen heartthrob era.

 

For Canada's sesquicentennial, the group will be performing all-Canadian selections, but aside from that pretty much anything goes, Hansen said – but within reason.

 

“We're just doing iconic songs from each decade that are singable,” Hansen said, smiling. “I mean there are a lot of songs that I like that are heavy metal which you really can't sing, at least not in four-part harmonies.”

 

Ninety-one-year-old Monty Montgomery said being a part of Synergy 150 has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, something that surprised the novice singer.

 

“I've known Mary Jean and her husband Paul for some time and I told her 'I can't sing'. And she said 'You'll sing when I get done with you',” he said with a laugh. “It's amazing what she does... you know a lot of these people have been in choirs, but not all of them. And the way the (choir) sings now, it's unbelievable. It's also amazing what she's dug up in terms of music.”

 

“I'm really starting to get into it,” Montgomery continued with a grin. “Originally I thought all I was going to do was organize transportation and do paperwork. But it's not too bad, I've blended in. I always try to stand between two guys who can sing, though.”

 

As for Hansen, the choir is simply a continuation of her life-long love affair with making music.

 

“I just love to have a lot of voices together,” she said. “Every year my husband and I have thrown open our doors to have carolers come into our home... I just love the sound of so many voices mixed and singing. I always have.

 

“What motivates me is that there is music in everyone,” Hansen continued. “That's why I won't audition people for the choir – I take all comers because I know that it eventually comes out. For me, the joy that music brings, it's incredible. You can be having the worst day in the world, and then you sing and you'll go home and you're light and you're happy.”

 

With only a minimal fee to join – $20, which is used to purchase sheet music – and practices every Wednesday, Hansen encourages anyone who wants to express themselves musically to come out and give Synergy 150 a go. The group will begin public performances on June 30 and Hansen is hoping that members bring with them a bit of a flair for the dramatic, too.

 

“When we started the choir I told them 'be prepared' – we don't just stand there and sing,” Hansen said, smiling. “Like when we do our sixties show, I expect some of you to come dressed in that era's clothes. That's my thing, I like drama and performance, just to make it a little more fun.”

 

Synergy 150's first performance will be on June 30 at North Lambton Lodge.

 

For more information about the group email synergy150choir@gmail.com or call 519-786-3075.

 



 

 

SYNERGY 150 CELEBRATES ST. JAMES CHURCH 150TH