Michelle Fleck (left), Anita Baturin and Kim Anderson rehearse one of the many Motown numbers that audiences will hear during the Glee Club evening of Motown hits, which hits the Powerhouse Theatre stage Dec. 15-17. (Wayne Emde photo)

Vernon production gets groovy with Motown hits

Glee Club takes the Powerhouse Theatre stage Dec. 15-17 for an evening of Motown jams

It’s a sound deeply-rooted in Detroit history that inspired a generation.

That’s the narrative that The Vernon Community Music School’s Glee Club hopes to embody as they take the Powerhouse Theatre stage Dec. 15-17 for Glee Club Takes a Musical Journey to Motown.

Formerly under the name Tamla Records, Motown started in Detroit in 1959, filling an integral role in racial integration of popular music.

“They gave an opportunity to people of colour and changed music forever,” said Glee Club director Therese Parent. “I think a lot of the music is still being played today but the history and importance isn’t really known anymore.”

With the idea of education and entertainment in mind, 17 performers will grace the stage, singing iconic Motown hits like Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, James Brown’s I Feel Good and The Temptations’ Get Ready.

“I think it’s really great that people will get to see how it was performed and how it changed lives,” Parent said.

Steeped in gospel and soul roots, Motown marked not only a cultural movement but the evolution of ’60s American pop music.

“It (Motown sound) had that gospel feel with the contemporary edge of the time,” Parent said. “There’s a style to it, the Motown style. Even though it was in the ’60s and ’70s, it was very different than the (mainstream) style.”

Parent, who grew up hearing Motown sounds on her parents’ records, pored over archives and discographies to craft the 20-song setlist featured in the tribute show.

“Danica Hardy and I took days and just listened to a bunch of Motown songs that would fit well and are theatrical,” Parent said. “When I’m choosing the songs, I usually think about the kind of singers I have in the group and I always end up with a lot more women than men.”

And it’s a composition that is reflected in the set, with hits from The Supremes like Where Did Our Love Go and Stop In The Name Of Love and, of course, Aretha Franklin’s Respect.

“That will be a huge hit for people,” Parent said of Respect, noting that Darby Mills — former lead singer of Headpins who currently performs as the Darby Mills Project — is a guest performer for the song. “She’s a very great sport and a huge talent.”

Other than Mills and a guest performer from Parent’s junior Glee Club group who will take the stage as a young Michael Jackson, the lineup of performers are all members of Parent’s Glee Club who have been rehearsing for the year-end performance since classes started in September.

“Some have performed before and some haven’t. We’re really open to anyone who wants to come on stage,” Parent said. “Singing, playing music and performing — that’s how the Glee Club started.”

Glee Club Takes a Musical Journey to Motown is the club’s fourth annual show, starting off with a tribute to ABBA, followed by a Beatles-influenced performance and most recently a tribute to Carole King in 2016.

Taking the stage alongside Glee Club members is the five-piece band, comprised of Don Parker on guitar, Aaron Jamin on saxophone, Mike Parent on drums, Julian Veres on bass and saxophone and Ryan Epp on the keys.

“It’s a fundraiser for the school and is a community event. There are a lot of sponsors and we wouldn’t be able to do it without help from the community,” Parent said. “It feels good. I think it’s going to be a really fun show.”

Glee Club Takes a Musical Journey to Motown hits the Powerhouse Theatre Dec. 15-16 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $28 from the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.Proceeds from the event go towards the Vernon Community Music School.

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