New conductor Michael Villette leads the Barkley Sounds Community Choir in a rehearsal. FACEBOOK PHOTO

Barkley Sounds Community Choir holds first concert with new director

Michael Villette is an Alberni Valley music teacher

The Barkley Sounds Community Choir has been performing since 2000, but there will be a new face at the helm for their first concert of 2018.

Michael Villette is an Alberni Valley music teacher who joined as director this year, taking over from long-time director Bonnie Wallbank.

“My training in university was to be a high school band teacher,” explained Villette. “That’s where I developed the skills as a director.”

Villette taught music in Prince Rupert and Port Alberni, working as an instructor for general music classes and bands from kindergarten to grade 12.

But he has also been involved in local music groups for a number of years. He sings with Timbre! Choir, as well as the church choir. It was his wife who first joined Barkley Sounds Community Choir.

“I got more interested because it was something to do with my wife,” he said. “It was a nice evening out.”

The choir, he said, holds a “special niche” within the community. Timbre! Choir is more of a concert choir, where members have to audition. Here, there are no auditions, and members come for the social aspect, as well as the musical aspect.

“We have more of a fellowship role,” he explained. “We enjoy music. We like to sing. We have some talent,” he added with a laugh. “That’s what we bring to it, is our joy.”

The choir is open for anyone who just likes to sing—some members start out with no experience reading music.

“It’s a place where anybody can come and enjoy themselves,” he said. “We don’t want to do music that’s inaccessible to newcomers. But at the same time we want to be proud of our work. We find a way to manage that balance.”

Villette said the group has been wonderful to work with so far.

“We don’t take ourselves very seriously, but we take our music and our jobs seriously,” he said.

The community choir holds two concerts every year—a Christmas concert in December and a spring concert in April. Their next spring concert will be taking place on Sunday, April 22 at the Alberni District Secondary School Theatre.

The theme for the upcoming concert is “celebration.” It’s a celebration of spring, music, change and rebirth—celebrating a new director at the helm with a new personality.

But they are also celebrating new music and old favourites from past concerts. The spring concert will feature everything from ABBA to the Everly Brothers to the Mamas and the Papas. Local musicians Dennis Olsen, Guy Langlois and Anna Lewis will also be featured as guest performers.

“People are going to enjoy it, they always do,” promised founding choir member Sylvia Springer. “The people who are here really, really love to sing.”

Celebrate Spring! will take place on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the ADSS Theatre. Tickets are available at the Rollin Art Centre, the Echo Centre and from choir members. Tickets are $15 for adults and free for children under 12.

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