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Zoom-ing Westcoast chorus grows during pandemic, now returns to rehearsals in Surrey

The dozens of singers have shown ‘unparalleled tenacity, strength, creativity, a huge sense of community’
Back in 2018, Anne Downton directs members of Westcoast Harmony Chorus at Parkland Baptist Church in North Surrey. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

With more singers than before the pandemic, Surrey-based Westcoast Harmony Chorus is returning to in-person rehearsals after a year and a half of online gatherings.

The Anne Downton-directed group of 76 members will again sing at their longtime rehearsal spot, Parkland Community Church (9574 160th St.), on Wednesday evenings, starting Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.

Back when COVID-19 first exploded in March 2020, Westcoast moved to virtual rehearsals via the Zoom conference platform.

During weekly rehearsals, members “kept their musical skills sharp, learning new music, studying new techniques and producing two virtual performances,” according to marketing co-ordinator Kelly Collins. Not only did current members stick it out, she says new singers joined the chorus, swelling its ranks by more than 10 per cent.

As provincial health restrictions loosened this year, the chorus created a hybrid rehearsal format “to accommodate the comfort level of all members,” Collins noted.

In August, they began singing live outdoors in a parking lot, “with each singer standing inside a hula hoop at an appropriate distance,” Collins explained. An elaborate sound system set up by volunteers, with microphones, speakers and cameras, made it possible for everyone to hear each other, and for other singers to join in on Zoom.

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• WATCH: Surrey-based chorus spent three months creating uplifting video/song on Zoom, from January 2021.

Last January, the chorus posted video of their performance of “Go The Distance,” a song from the Disney film Hercules. Featured were 56 singers who rehearsed, recorded and submitted solely online.

The previous summer, in June 2020, Westcoast Harmony Chorus singers were featured in an “O Canada Virtual Chorus” video, in a first performance of its kind for the chorus.

“I’m so proud of everything our singers have been able to accomplish in the last 17 months,” Downton said. “They’ve shown unparalleled tenacity, strength, creativity, and most of all a huge sense of community. I have no doubt that there will be magic in the room when we can finally hear each other again in our rehearsal venue.”

Now, Westcoast seeks even more new members.

“This is a perfect time to join us,” Downton said. “We’ll be working on new repertoire as we prepare for international competition in Phoenix, Arizona, next year.”

Westcoast Harmony Chorus is billed as “a group of women and people of marginalized genders who love to sing and are personally committed to excellence and lasting friendships.” To get involved, email or visit the group online,

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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