Seaway Sounds: Making people happy in four-part harmony

Toes tapped and heads bobbed when the Seaway Sounds gave a rousing performance last week at Rosewood Manor in Sarnia. Members of the all-female a cappella chorus include, from left, Donna Sullivan, Emma Crosbie, Carol Gilmurray, Erin Fletcher, B.J. Swarts, Melanie Thomson and Barbara Bell-Leaver. Glenn Ogilvie

Cathy Dobson

Carol Gilmurray never really knew she could sing.

“I mean I felt I was somewhat musical but I hadn’t found my range,” she explains.

That is, until she retired. Then she thought she’d pursue something completely different and began looking for singing lessons.

She found the Seaway Sounds a cappella group not only welcomed inexperienced singers, but offered free singing lessons too.

“It’s a great bunch of ladies and I just fell in love with it,” said Gilmurray.

Two years ago she joined the group that performs 30 to 35 times a year, competes in Sweet Adeline international competitions and provides lessons and free training to its leaders.

“We go out Thursday evening one time a month to a local nursing home and make people happy,” said Gilmurray. “You see the residents smiling, tapping their feet, and you know you’re doing something good.”

Chorus members  – currently ages 18 to 78 – have been singing four-part harmony with no instruments for the past 26 years in Sarnia.

“Tenor, lead, baritone and bass; it’s all done with our voices,” said chorus director Michelle St. Onge Mitchell. “When you do a song in pitch and keep it going, it’s the coolest sound.

“It’s a challenge and I love a challenge.”

She’s been part of Seaway Sounds for almost 20 years.

“A lot of people will think of four-part harmony as old music but we also do updated songs and a wide variety of country, rock, show tunes, movie tunes and our Christmas repertoire.”

The chorus currently has 20 members but there have been years with as many as 60.

“We’re looking for more,” said St. Onge Mitchell. “You need to be able to hold a tune and then we teach you how to use your ear and go from there.

“You don’t have to have any experience.”

Seaway Sounds is performing at Cheeky Monkey on Christina Street during the next First Friday on Dec. 5.  The chorus is also joining the Bluewater Chordsmen and St. Clair High School Vocal Ensemble for a fundraiser at Central United on Dec. 7, from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Free will donations accepted at the door.

Questions about joining the chorus or having the women perform can be directed to Carol Gilmurray at 519-381-0940 or email cgilmurray@me.com.

If you have a story that reflects Sarnia’s vibrant arts culture, contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.