Phyllis Bunker and Marg Tayler may not share much in common with the character of Hard Hearted Hannah, except, like Hannah, they know how to thrill ‘em.
Hard Hearted Hannah was one of the songs that catapulted the pair to international singing prestige in October when they performed, along with the other members of Vancouver-based Lions Gate Chorus, to a full house in Houston, Texas for the 2011 International Competition.
Their chorus placed third in the competition.
Lions Gate Chorus is one of the choruses which make up Region 26 of Sweet Adelines International, and stretches from B.C. to Saskatchewan and even has members come in from Washington state.
Performing at Internationals is not a walk in the park, and requires great singing, focus, and a flair for entertainment.
It’s also a week-long marathon of performances.
“It’s a whole week of competition,” said Phyllis, adding the week begins with small chorus competitions and later features quartets.
There were 32 choruses competing at the event
It’s a cappella-style singing with no instruments. Phyllis sings the bass while Marg hits the baritone notes.
It’s a hard road on the way to winning but all the members of Sweet Adelines International get along and it’s always a friendly competition.
“Choruses aren’t competitive amongst themselves. It’s a very friendly organization where people help each other,” said Marg.
As their chorus is based in Vancouver, the two have to fly a couple of times a month to keep up, and use the Internet to help them keep up in between their in-person visits.
Despite the fact that Prince George and Prince Rupert have their own choruses, they said they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get involved with Vancouver’s large club.
Marg explained that their director in Vancouver is renowned in Sweet Adelines, and is a Master 700, which is a prestigious distinction.
“She’s an excellent director. When you have a big chorus like that you just have that opportunity to go farther. We’ve learned a lot,” said Marg.
Singing is in their blood, as both are members of a local chorus, Sweet Harmony. Sweet Harmony is informally associated with, but not a member of, Sweet Adelines.
The approximately 18 member local chorus started in 1986, and Phyllis was a founding member.
She explained that a woman from Prince George moved to Smithers that year and didn’t want to give up singing. (She was a member of a Prince George chorus.)
She gathered together a group of friends, which came to include Phyllis, and they’ve been singing ever since.
They perform a lot at Christmas, said Marg, and at other events, from staff parties to Valentines Day.
“We love embarrassing people,” said Phyllis.
If you’re wondering what their winning set was, the chorus performed Midnight Choo-Choo and Time After Time in the semi-finals, and wrapped up the finals with Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah) and The Way You Look Tonight.
Anyone (any women, at least) who wants to give their vocals a good work-out are free to talk to Sweet Harmony members if they want to join the local chorus. Phyllis said people can call her at 250-847-2044 for information.
And people need not be intimidated.
“So many people say ‘Oh, I was told not to sing in my grade 2 choir,’ … but it’s really a learned activity. There’s very few people that can’t learn,” said Marg.