By Alex Wilks
Special to the Peace Arch News
The Peace Arch Chorus may be small, but the echoes of their barbershop harmonies fill Surrey’s Bethany-Newton United Church every Wednesday evening.
The efforts of the chorus’ newest member, Emma Gibson, 30 – who took on the position as new musical director only last September – are focused on improving the chorus’s sound as well as further educating the members about the beauty of barbershop.
“My primary goal is their musical improvement and education…my focus is all on them,” Gibson said.
Although the group focuses on barbershop, the chorus is made up of women of a wide range of ages and experience in various singing styles and backgrounds. Members are required to complete an audition process based on range and harmonizing ability. Gibson said she believes that “music doesn’t have an age – all women are welcome.”
The barbershop style evolved in the late 1800s and early 1900s, highlighting four-part a cappella harmony – usually performed by a quartet, but often expanded into larger chorus performances, with members singing either lead, tenor, bass or baritone.
“The ringing of chords and the harmony of barber shop is a beautiful experience,” said Gibson. “The harmony captivates you when it rings together with the chords.”
Pat Harper, 64, is assistant director and team leader of the chorus. She explains that Gibson’s “job is everything musical… she is a very musical person and very talented. We are lucky to have her. She is somebody that had no problem taking the reins.”
Gibson’s musical talent is no mystery. She has heavily been influenced by both her parents who have been involved in various barbershop groups her entire life.
“My mom sung in Peace Arch Chorus when I was six years old," she recalled. "I used to come out with her every Wednesday night and watch the ladies sing and dance and have a good time.”
While attending Semiahmoo Secondary she played piano and some trombone in school bands, but singing was always something much more for her. Performed in her first quartet transitioned into multiple gigs in her early barbershop years.
“Singing gave me an outlet for all sorts of feelings and emotions and the overall energy that I had from life,” she said. “It makes me happy.”
Gibson now sings in an international level quartet called Glow. She and the three other members sing at a competitive level in competitions all around the world.
“I like the pure and complete entertainment of an audience. I like knowing that I have given them no cause to wonder…the complete captivation.”
She explains that performing has always given her a rush. “Even after 10 years there’s still a certain degree of adrenaline.”
Although she is very familiar with the role of performer, directing is an entirely new and exciting ball game, she said. “Everyone depends on me,” said Gibson. “We have a lot to learn from each other.”
Asked if she had any notion of slowing down, her response was immediate. “I direct a chorus, I sing with a chorus… there is just no way I would ever give it up. It’s my life.”
Director and chorus are currently prepping themselves – along with their signature purple costumes – for the Hooked on Harmony Regional Convention that takes place every year on the May long weekend.
Further information and a list of events can be seen on the Chorus webpage, www.peacearchsings.com