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Richmond, Metro Vancouver singers win international chorus competition

The Lions Gate Chorus A Capella Choir wowed judges with a nightmare-themed production

An acapella chorus with 100 members from around Metro Vancouver recently won its first international gold medal for the first time in almost seven decades.

The Lions Gate Chorus was crowned International Champion earlier this month at the 75th annual Sweet Adelines International Convention and Competition, an international barbershop contest featuring choruses from around the world.

This year's finals were held in Louisville, Kentucky on Nov. 4.

"We just went crazy when it was announced," said chorus member and Richmond resident Diane Weinrath.

Lions Gate had come second three times in the past, but this was the chorus' first gold medal since it was first established 69 years ago.

The theme of the chorus' award-winning musical routine is "nightmares," a relatable theme for anyone who has ever been nervous the night before a big event, Weinrath explained.

"We've all had those kinds of nightmare dreams where you're late for the exam, or you're naked in front of the audience."

The 15-minute routine, which pairs dramatic costume tearaways and changes with parody lyrics to well-known pop songs, was the cumulation of 18 months of hard work.

The chorus had begun preparing for the finals after winning gold at the Western Canada regionals a year and a half ago and presented the routine at Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby earlier this year.

Weinrath, who has been a member of the chorus for 20 years and competed in 10 international competitions, said it was a "huge, exciting victory."

"You couldn't really overstate it, because we've come second three times and third twice. It's just the culmination of so much hard work and so much effort and believability," she said.

Chorus practice 'good for the soul': Richmond singer

Apart from its gold medal, Lions Gate was chosen by the audience as the "Most Entertaining Chorus" of this year's competition, an accolade it has won three times in the past.

The chorus was also featured in last year's Canada's Got Talent, where they impressed judges and audience alike and received four yeses. 

Weinrath told the Richmond News she was drawn to the chorus because she loved to sing and the chorus offered "great education" and "so many great friends."

She said it's "good for the soul" and the chorus makes her feel better after a hard day, even if she doesn't feel like going to practice.

"But after you get there, and you've been singing and you're ready to go home... There's a lot of endorphins and stuff from singing, and your load is lighter," she said.

She hopes that more people will sign up for the chorus, especially singers from Richmond.

According to the rules of the contest, Lions Gate will have to wait three years before competing again. However, the chorus will be working on a 10-minute set to perform in next year's semi-finals as the reigning champions.

Members have also started compiling a spreadsheet of ideas for the next finals, said Weinrath.

"So it's not far from the musical' leadership's mind, what we will do next time."

Check out Lions Gate Chorus' winning performance on Sweet Adelines International's YouTube channel.

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