The Tidesmen are performing their Christmas concerts on Friday, Dec. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 16 and in the new year they will begin a learn to sing a cappella program. (Photo courtesy Mary Peppard)

Tidesmen chorus brings ‘old fashioned’ cheer to Nanaimo

Lantzville-based ensemble to perform in Parksville and Nanaimo this weekend

About a year ago, James Dunn was invited to a performance by the Lantzville-based Tidesmen a cappella chorus and it wasn’t long before he found himself adding his voice to the ensemble.

“I was just so overjoyed to see this group of 30 guys who just sing for the pure joy of singing and I think that’s what really made me then want to join and become part of it. Just to discover that kind of joyful singing,” he said, adding that he hoped it would be an educational experience as well.

“I’ve sung in folk groups and rock groups for many years but I’ve never really actually learned how to sing, I just kind of always did it and always realized that there was a lot I didn’t know about singing.”

Now Dunn is preparing for his first Christmas concerts with the Tidesmen, which take place at the Nanaimo Ecumenical Centre on Friday, Dec. 15 and Knox United Church in Parksville on Saturday, Dec. 16. He said he’s excited and a little apprehensive to be a part of the performances.

“I have never been much of a Christmas sort of guy. Learning the words to like a dozen Christmas carols is kind of daunting … so I’m having to spend a couple hours a day practising,” he said.

Dunn said the program, called Old Fashioned Christmas, includes a mix of new and old carols and hymns “with a couple of interesting twists thrown in.”

Dunn said he perceives that about half the people who attend Tidesmen shows share his enthusiasm to join the group and as vice-president of membership it’s his job to help welcome and support new members.

“I was just so pleasantly shocked and surprised to discover what a supportive environment it is for singers,” he said of the group.

“It’s very easy to not feel pressured there and I’ve just found I’m such a better singer a year later so I kept thinking, ‘Other people need to find out about this.’”

In the new year Dunn will be co-ordinating a learn to sing a cappella program. It’s the first time the Tidesmen are offering the program, which is based on an existing curriculum designed by the American Barbershop Harmony Society, and covers topics like posture, breathing, how to extend range and basic chord knowledge.

Dunn said he hopes the program, which will begin enrolment in January, encourages people to sing more freely.

“The thing that we’ve discovered is there are actually quite a few great shower singers out there who are just not comfortable going beyond that. We want to help people out of the shower and share their talents with the world,” he said.

“The [goal of] Learn to Sing is to help people who aren’t quite confident with their singing yet learn that they actually can be really good singers with just a bit of technical knowledge and some encouragement and support.”

WHAT’S ON … The Tidesmen’s Old Fashioned Christmas show comes to the Nanaimo Ecumenical Centre on Friday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. and Knox United Church in Parksville on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $5 for children under 16.

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