Volume 12 Week 5

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(Posted 4:30 p.m., Nov. 6)
Western-themed Bytowne Beat concert a real hoot
By Fred Sherwin
Orleans Online

Myriam Laliberté (centre) played Lawanda Darlene in the Bytowne Beat Chorus production of 'The Rodeo Queen' at the Shenkman Arts Centre on Nov. 5. Fred Sherwin/Photo

As a fan of the iconic television series "Hee Haw", I was thrilled to hear that the Bytowne Beat Chorus had adopted a country and western theme to their concert this year, and judging by the near capacity audiences that showed up for their two shows on Saturday, I wasn't the only one.

As it turns out, the Orléans-based barbershop chorus has quite the following, and for good reason. The 35-member, all-female group is both talented and creative.

The concert revolved around the central character, Lawanda Darlene, a barrell-racing rodeo queen from Balzac, Alberta.

After discovering there is more to life than quarterhorses, Lawanda meets a young man named Billy who is performing in a Calgary saloon with a traveling barbershop quartet. The two hit it off immediately, but Billy has to leave town with the rest of the quartet the next day.

After her chance meeting with Billy, Lawanda's thoughts soon turn to her first love -- a big, brwany Brahma bull-rider named Johnny.

As fate would have it, the two run into each other at Pete's Poker Palace in Edmonton. But much to Lawanda's surprise, Johnny is married to a ravishing redhead. The hope of one day rekindling her love with Johnny is over; "crushed like a cow turd in the middle of the arena" is how the narrator puts it.

Ever the romantic, Lawanda still holds out hope that she might one day run into Billy again. Several years go by before the two are finally reunited at the saloon where they first met.

This time Billy sticks around, and the two lovebirds ride off into the sunset to live happilty ever after.

The simple plot line formed a fitting and colourful backdrop to an electic array of songs that were brought to life by the 35-member chorus, assisted by a large segment of the audience who couldn't help themselves. And how could they? You try sitting still when an all-female barbershop chorus strikes up "Any Man of Mine" or "Hey, Good Lookin' ".

As an added bonus the concert also featured several numbers by the Toronto-based barbershop quartet Fusion and a little old tyme fiddlin' by Cumberland's own Wade Foster,

The 90-minute concert was entertaining as all get up and at several moments during the show I felt like letting out a loud "yeehaw". From what I could tell the rest of the audience fully enjoyed it as well. The only unfortunate part, is that we have to wait a whole year before the next production which musical director Pam Warkentin plans to start working on early in the new year.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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