Gabriola Island singers Roger Christie and Yolanda King perform at the MGM Restaurant on April 26. (Photos courtesy Richard Pullano/Robert Kenney)

Gabriola Island singer returns to the stage after six-year absence

Yolanda King’s singing career was halted when she started having seizures

Six years after she began suffering from seizures, Gabriola Island-based singer Yolanda King is finally ready to return to the stage.

“I haven’t sung a note since,” she said. “Well, in the shower, of course, but that’s about it.”

For 15 years King and her band performed on cruise ships, but her seagoing career was cut short due to her medical condition. She explained that everyone working on a ship must be able to respond in emergency situations, and her seizures made her a liability.

After living her life “out of a suitcase” for years, King decided to settle on Gabriola, not far from her parents, to begin her “journey back to health.”

“It’s a pretty amazing community here. Lots of support from people I didn’t even know and I’m grateful,” she said. “There are people that suffer from seizures that are far worse off than I am so it just took a while … and now I’m ready to get back up on stage again and give her a try.”

On Friday, April 26, King will perform alongside fellow Gabriola singer Roger Christie and accompanists Marty Steele on piano and Larry Miller on woodwinds and saxophone in Nightlife: The Good Life, a program centred on the Great American Songbook repertoire, at MGM Restaurant.

King had started easing back into singing by attending jam sessions on Gabriola. That’s where she met Christie, who was immediately impressed with her voice and suggested they work together. The singers discovered they shared a love of mid-20th century classics and decided to build a show around those songs.

“Even as a young girl my mother used to play records by Lena Horne and singers like that. So I developed that love while I was out at sea over the years,” King said. “And as the demographic of passengers on cruise ships is typically older, I would have more and more requests to do songs from those eras.”

King said that a few years ago she would have never thought that an opportunity like this would present itself. She said preparing for the concert has been like “riding a bike,” but it was still a scary proposition.

“There was a lot of fear surrounding getting back to singing,” she said. “I mean, I never lost my vocal ability, but it was the fear of putting myself back out there in public in a very open way.”

King said it’s taken a while for her to accept her situation, but since she has she’s been overwhelmed by the support she’s received from support groups and social services. She said she’s spoken with a lot of people in similar situations and her focus now is to do what she can to help.

“I’m hoping to parlay this into being an advocate of some kind or offering support to other people, because, really, the fear of losing my abilities was greater than the actual disability,” she said. “I missed out on six years of the joy of performing and I just feel so grateful that I’ve got a second chance.”

WHAT’S ON … Nightlife: The Good Life at MGM Restaurant on Friday, April 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets $10 at the door. Encore performance at the Surf Lodge Restaurant on Gabriola Island on May 12 at 7 p.m. Tickets $15 at the venue or North Road Sports.

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