In her 23 years with the Sweet Adelines International barbershop chorus, Barb Forbister has encountered many women who insisted that they could not sing.
Told not repeatedly that their voices were simply "no good," these women still held onto their curiosity abou singing, and sheepishly showed up to audition for the Adelines anyway.
"One of our longest-standing members, who has since passed away, she always said she could not sing, she was always told, 'don't sing' at school, and 'when you sing Happy Biithday, oh my goodness, it sounds terrible,'" said Forbister. "All of those women, it turned out, had low voices, so the range was too high for them. You know when you sing O Canada and God Save the Queen? It's always up in a higher zone."
In all her years with the chorus, there have only ever been two women that could truly not sing, she said, and in most cases it was simply that they were bass or baritone singers.
It is this spirit of inclusion and companionship, as well as and the confidence borne from overcoming challenges, that keeps Forbister passionate about her own pursuit of music.
This month, the Heart of the Island chorus of Sweet Adelines International celebrates the 40th year since Carole Sundell first formed a fledgling 14-member chorus in 1973.
In honour of the achievement, Mayor John Ruttan recently declared September 'Sweet Adelines International Month,' to encourage us all to "harmonize the world through song," according to the proclamation.
Internationally, the chorus started in post-war Tulsa, Oklahoma, when a group of wives decided they wanted to participate in the harmonies of barbershop music that their husbands enjoyed. According to their website, it was on July 13, 1945, that a woman named Edna Mae Anderson hosted a group of women in her home, which became the first gathering of what later became the Sweet Adelines International.
Forbister's introduction to the group came in 1990, while she was working as a radiologist in the hospital.
A co-worker invited her along to practice, and from the moment she heard those lilting harmonies, she was hooked.
Growing up in a musical household, both of Forbister's parents sung in harmony together on a regular basis, and at various occasions such as weddings.
However Forbister had no idea that she, too, could sing.
"I was little Barb housewife mother when I joined, and now I'm not anymore," said Forbister. "It changes your outlook on your life. It changes how you feel about yourself."
Entering motherhood early, at the age of 18, Forbister then had four children in the space of five years. For many years there was simply no time for any activities outside the home.
However now, at the age of 76, and with nine great-grandchildren, she said her two foremost passions in life are both her family and her music.
"I cannot go without it. I cannot be without my music," she said with a smile.
This fall, the chorus will be learning a version of the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah, popularized by everyone from Nanaimo's Allison Crowe to k.d. lang and the late Jeff Buckley.
Though The Sweet Adelines have participated in events from the opening of the Duke Point ferry terminal to the city's Mayday celebrations, and sing everything from oldies to contemporary pop, Forbister admits that gospel is her favourite genre.
With 23 members currently, the local Heart of the Island chorus are hosting a membership drive later this month in the hope they can double their numbers.
With the economic recession, many women had to start working more, said Forbister, which caused their membership to dwindle over the years.
They kick off the drive with a public concert on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Lantzville Legion Hall.
There will be an opportunity after the performance in which new members will have an opportunity to join.
"The confidence it builds is amazing. It's your support group," said Forbister. "No one sings alone."
© Copyright 2013