Competitive Karaoke Is A Thing, And These B.C. Belters Have Stars In Their Eyes

Six wannabe warblers are taking their favourite tunes to the next level.

November 8, 2018

By Laryssa Vachon

For some, a Friday night behind the mic at a dingy bar is a one-off drunken memory—for others, it’s another chance to hone their craft as they chase the dream of the Karaoke World Championships. This past summer, the most dedicated of the city’s amateur vocalists came together for the provincial finals to put their pipes to the test.

The Singers

(From left to right, and in their own words.)

Corinne Friesen—58, yoga blogger and math tutor

“I heard about this competition and immediately wanted to do it because I knew good things would come of it. I knew it would make me better. So my husband and I taped my karaoke every night, and we would go home and analyze it and slowly make improvements. The thing that karaoke does for you is it teaches you how to communicate with a crowd. It’s not something that you can learn in a classroom—you have to go out there and do it. You can love a song to death and do an amazing job with it. But if you’re not connecting with the crowd, they’re just gonna ignore you and go on their phones and drink. So you have to figure out how to reach them. This is a very supportive crowd, so it’s safe to take risks.”  

Go-to song: “The Sound of Silence,” Disturbed version

Sarah Topham30, server/bartender

“I used to hate karaoke. I would feel sick and I was so nervous, but then I started singing [at work] and it just kind of went from there. I still feel sick every single time. Usually, I have a couple of drinks before I go on. I hate doing it sober—like, deadly sober.”

Go-to song: “Make You Feel My Love,” Adele version

Kat Leminski—46, housewife

“My parents are my biggest fans. My mom likes Whitney’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and my dad liked Celine’s ‘My Heart Will Go On.’ I lost my dad last year, and I sang it at his celebration of life.” 

Go-to song: “Why Haven’t I Heard from You,” Reba McEntire

Ty Michelin—39, roofing inspector

“I just signed up for the contest because why not, right? I’m rather unique—like Leonard Cohen meets Rob Zombie.” 

Go-to song: “Li’l Red Riding Hood,” Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

Judy Smith (Lady Jas)75, admin support clerk

“My name is Judy, so during karaoke in the late ’90s, I’d hear ‘oo’ and ‘ee’ in the same breath and it was my turn. Like, they’d say ‘Julie,’ they’d say ‘Trudy,’ and they’d say ‘Rudy,’ and I’d be up there because it sounded like my turn. I finally decided that wasn’t working very well, so I started using ‘Jas’ [pronounced jazz]—my initials. Now they call ‘Jas’ and I know it’s me.”

Go-to song: “I love power songs”

Terry Hill—49, food and beverage operations manager at YVR

“People say that karaoke’s not real singing, but if you can’t sing or you don’t know the song or the catch of the tune, you’re gonna screw up. So I don’t think it’s any different than singing professionally. To me, it’s connecting with a song. If I can connect with a song, I’ll sing it. If I can’t, I don’t wanna sing it.”  

Go-to song: Wild Horses,” Susan Boyle version

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