From Bach to Queen and Bach again, there’s never a quiet moment in Michelle Reid’s life. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Reid is the musical director of the Sage Sound Singers Choir, a group she put together five years ago because she was “lonely”.
“When I was at the coast,” she says, “I was part of an 85 person choir – for 17 years!”
Music has been part of her life forever, she says. Her parents were both musicians – the violin for her mother, piano for her father.
Reid says she can’t imagine a life without music. “I think I would wither away,” she says. “I’m going to do it until I drop. Music has been my life. Even raising kids, there was always guitars in my house, pianos, you name it.”
It was a big part of her life in the French Canadian community she grew up in on the prairies. She directed their community choir at Expo in 1969 when she was 16.
“I’m not formally trained as far as education goes,” she says, “but as far as being taught the right way, I’ve learned with the best of the best.”
Always part of a choir, Reid says the directors would ask her advice on occasion, ask her to fill in for them sometimes.
“I really, really am humble when it comes to music,” she says. “I know so little compared to a lot of people, so little. But I do know that if I tackle something I’m going to do it well. I don’t like doing things half assed.”
The Reids moved back to the area when they retired. “I was lonely,” she says, “and I joined the chorus one winter in Kamloops, but I was not happy. I thought, ‘This is too much like Lawrence Welk’, I couldn’t do it.”
She had a book of choir music accumulated from years of singing in choirs, and she approached Nadine Davenport because of her connection to Winding Rivers Arts and Performance Society (WRAPS). Nadine became her first recruit.
“I had such big aspirations,” she said. “Like major aspirations – maybe a little too much.”
She asked Nadine and her friends to spread the word, and that’s how it started. Carmen Ranta was recommended as a conductor, and Ranta recommented Dimiter Terziev as their pianist.
Balance in the choir is everything. When you have a circle of musical acquaintances, they know just about everyone in the area who has any aspirations to sing.
“But I can’t accept 400 people in my choir,” says Reid. “It has to be balanced. If I don’t have a balanced choir, it’s not going to sound right.”
Not everyone is cut out to be a part of the choir.
“If you’re made to sing in the shower or by the campfire and it makes you happy, then that’s what you do,” she says.
“I look at the choir members and how far they’ve come and it just gives me so much joy,” she says. “I enjoy every rehearsal, I enjoy every minute. It’s the journey.
“Like My Fair Lady,” she says. “It was very beautiful, and I enjoyed the end product but it was the journey.
“I have learned so much from My Fair Lady,” says Reid. “When they asked me to be musical director for the play, I went to Vegas and bought a digital piano.” She and her husband were in the US already on vacation.
She had the musical score for the play, but it was all too high for the choir.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to do it,” she said.
She went through all 274 pages of music, page by page. It was an education, she said. It taught her what to focus on. Even her older sister, Paulette, who has a Masters in Music, was impressed.
Reid moved parts around, gave them to other members of the choir, and all in all, manipulated over 1,000 hours of music just to make it all balance.
She recruited Gerald Young after hearing him sing in the back of a business machine office. She was looking for a photocopier after burning out two printers while copying music for the play. She told someone that they were doing My Fair Lady “and all of a sudden, I hear a voice in the back singing. He’s singing On the Street Where You Live.”
She introduced herself and after a brief conversation, asked him to audition, which he did and won the role of Freddy.
She recruited a car salesman for the choir in the same way. He was singing to himself in the car lot while they were looking for a new car. “I said to him, ‘I’ve got this choir and I’m really looking for some high tenors’ and he starts singing Ave Maria. I said ‘Don, if I buy a car you join the choir’ – and he did.”
“My whole intention of this choir was to have fun,” says Reid. “I didn’t want people to feel that they had to work to death to achieve a certain level, but that being said, I wanted them to reach their potential.
“Music lifts people. I see people come to the rehearsal and when they leave they are jubilant. It’s just unbelievable what music will do to a person and to a community.”