Salt Spring Singers: opera for the people

December 9, 2016

So far, I have done a lot in my life. I think I have lived life LARGE.

But, I am ashamed to say, I have never attended a professionally staged opera on a world class stage. Even when I was in Vienna, Austria two summers ago, I did not go to the opera. To be fair with myself, I was there at the end of 3 months trekking around Europe and I was broke– but still, it does seem absurd to be in Vienna and not imbibe in the arts scene.

Experiencing the Salt Spring Singers comes close. Following is the story:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wednesday, May 16, 2006

Salt Spring Singers: opera for people

by Tanya Lester

Okay, now I get what opera is all about.

Death inspires this beautiful, deep, rich and resonating form of music.

This is the gift that the audience received from the Salt Spring Singers’ performance of “Masquerade!” last weekend.

First and foremost, a standing ovation needs to go to director and conductor Mitch Howard. His infectious passion for music is only rivalled by his obvious desire to help everyone realize why he loves it so much. Howard understands that humour goes a long way.

He peppered his commentary with the story lines for the choruses that he conducted. In every one of them, at least someone, and often many, die. As the evening moved forward, Howard — like the good teacher and clown that obviously is — had drawn the audience in to the point that they were filling in the blanks in his sentences as he announced yet another death in another chorus from another opera or stage musical….

Inside the theatre as I waited for the lights to go up, I spied beings with ears. “Those couldn’t actually be animals on stage?” I asked myself.

They turned out to be “divas” (as Howard called them). Young women from the Salt Spring Honour Choir, dressed as cats, sang selections from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats. And they were so much like cats as they preened and pawed and did all things feline.

Then the Salt Spring Singers filed on stage in black with gold and royal purple banners. Many wore brightly coloured masks.

It was so refreshing to see how Howard’s influence had “breathed life into them.”

This was clearly not going to be a stoic choir performance in which everyone looked ahead and dared not turn to left and right.

To match the beautiful sounds that vibrated out of their throats, the performers actually performed.

The female singers’ facial expressions looked like they knew they were pretty when they sang about feeling pretty in a West Side Story because I was, t oo, but in a good way. The singers had truly drawn us in to the show with their enthusiasm.

Another behind me started reminiscing about how a customer of her father’s used to get her tickets to West Side Story when she was growing up in New Yord City in the 1950s.

You know people are enjoying themselves when you hear them talk like this.

The evening also had so many little added touches that made it just that much better.

Sarah Lundy’s violin performance, with teacher Carolyn Hatch accompanying, was such a pure interlude, Lundy’s body moved as one with her instrument.

The Anvil Chorus was made special with Pip Moore and Rosemary Wallbank actually striking an anvil as percussionists.

It was nice to listen and hear singers as a group, but to hear their individual voices as well. By the end the audience seemed very ready when Howard invited us to sing the last song. That very few of us understood Italian did not seem to matter.


Tanya Lester is a psychic reader specializing in tea leaf reading, tarot, psychic channeling and mediumship. She is also a reiki master, author of four books including Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader and a fulltime housesitter. To access her services go to her website at or contact her directly at or call 250-538-0086. She also has pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.


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