Westcoast Harmony Chorus members made beautiful music in the Mile High City this week.
The Lower Mainland-based chorus took top spot in its category at the Denver 2012 International Convention which started Tuesday and runs until Saturday in Denver, Colo.
"We won!" Westcoast member Maureen Beechinor informed the Langley Advance via email on Wednesday afternoon. "International gold medal. [The] first chorus gold for Region 26. We are so incredibly happy! There was a crazy celebration for sure."
Among of the chorus contingent in Denver are Langley residents Alisa Bailey, Elyse Doerksen, Judi Ford, Marianna Harley, Barb Pomroy, Gayle Rowden, Patti Thorpe, and Trudy Zonneveld.
The Westcoast singers elected to enter into the Harmony Classic competition, involving the top five mid-size choruses and top five small choruses in the world.
The B.C.ers entered Harmony Classic because they are able to do a 15minute show package as opposed to a competition set which consists of just two songs.
This marks Westcoast's second Harmony Classic competition.
In 2010 in Seattle, Westcoast finished second in the AA category.
The Westcoast singers/entertainers range in age from their 20s to their 80s and come from across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
Westcoast qualified for the Denver competition through a Region 26 (B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan) competition in Calgary in May 2011.
"We came first place overall," recalled Beechinor, prior to going to Denver. "When you win in your region, you are qualified to go to international the following year."
In Calgary, the Westcoast women placed first for AA (midsize, up to 60 members) chorus, and took top spot overall.
Leading the chorus is director Anne Marteniuk who, at 25, is the youngest master director in the world of Sweet Adeline's music.
Martiniuk, according to Beechinor, is a master of her craft.
"I never thought that at my age, I would have a mentor who is half my age," Beechinor said.
Marteniuk is the Region 26 education coordinator and is famous for her "Anne-isms"
"She likes to make up works such as 'Contrastic' or 'Artisticize,'" Beechinor said. "Despite her university education Anne is absolutely sure these words are in the dictionary."
Zonneveld is a Westcoast veteran of 31 years, and is among the singers in Denver.
She never gets tired of singing with her Harmony "sisters."
"Every week there's a challenge," Zonneveld said. "It doesn't matter if you're there for one year or 31 years, there's always new music, a new show, a new competition, there are new members to be welcoming, so it's just a wonderful challenge."
The spin-offs are plentiful, according to Zonneveld, who served as Westcoast's membership chair for 14 years.
"I also went into regional management and I was the marketing membership coordinator for western Canada," Zonneveld added. "I did that for six years. I would have never dreamt of doing anything like that in my private life. By learning all these things, I had more courage to do things."
For Brandie Pelto, joining the chorus reunited her with Beechinor.
The two had worked for many years for a community newspaper in Maple Ridge.
She watched a performance and said she was "instantly hooked."
"It's so exciting and you learn so much vocally," Pelto said. "You couldn't get lessons like we get if you paid for them from a private tutor."
The chorus rehearses Wednesday nights at Surrey's Parkland
Fellowship Church, but members are encouraged to do a fair amount of "homework" on their own.
"You do a lot of stuff at home," Pelto said. "Choreography, learning dance moves and stuff, so it's not something you can go into thinking, 'Oh, this is a Wednesday night thing, seven until 10.'"
This marriage of presentation and singing separates choruses from choirs, the Westcoast members stressed.
"There's a ton of choreography," Beechinor said.
"We are meant to move," Zonneveld said. "We're engaged."
Westcoast's annual membership drive is in the new year - Jan. 9, 16, and 23.
Potential new members are encouraged to attend the group's rehearsals in Surrey.
If you're interested in finding out about the membership workshops, check out the website, www.westcoastsings.com.