In less than a year the Creston’s Best Singer contest has become one of the town’s hottest arts events. Now organizer Vern Gorham is bringing the concept over the Kootenay Pass and hoping to take the rest of the region by storm — starting here.
Nelson’s Best Singer hits the Capitol Theatre July 28, and Gorham is looking for 20 singers of any age who are ready to test their skills.
“I anticipate that we’ll have a lot more singers here in Nelson because there’s a lot more of an artistic element in the population than in Creston,” says Gorham.
For the contest singers can accompany themselves on acoustic instruments, a grand piano, or use an instrumental backing track. All genres and styles are welcome, as are original compositions. There’s also little in the way of age restrictions.
“[In Creston] my youngest singer was 11, my oldest was 76,” says Gorham. “I had a lot of high school kids that entered, a few junior high kids, a couple elementary kids and a lot of 25 to 30 year olds.”
The Creston version of the contest began last fall, when Gorham — who’d recently left his job managing a car dealership to spend more time at home — got inspired by his family’s love of singing contests in the Britain’s Got Talent model.
“I had some time and thought, hey, what can I do?” he says. “I thought I could have a contest, sell a couple hundred tickets, make a little bit of money, put some food on the table for my kids and have some fun doing it.”
By the time his first top 20 singers debuted in the Prince Charles Secondary School auditorium, every ticket for the venue was snapped up, and people had to be turned away at the door.
“In Creston that just doesn’t happen,” he says.
“And here I have two shows that are complete sellouts before the doors even open. I think I’m on to something here, this has tapped something, touched something.”
A second contest in February was similarly successful, and Gorham began looking at taking the show on the road. While Nelson is the first stop, the contest will also hit Castlegar, Trail and Grand Forks, as well as the East Kootenay. Once each community has its own Best Singer, Gorham plans to stage a regional faceoff.
The contest format is familiar to anyone who’s followed any version of the Idol, X-Factor or Got Talent series — though much condensed. Singers perform for a panel of three judges, who then select three finalists to perform a second time.
In addition to the title, the winner takes home $200, with prizes of $100 and $50 for the runners-up.
While seasoned singers are welcome, Gorham says he also hopes the contest will uncover new talent, giving those who only sing in the privacy of their cars or showers the push to get on stage.
“The girl who won the last contest in Creston, she’d never sung in a band or anything like that. She’d never had any formal training, she’s just an absolute beautiful raw talent,” he says. After the contest, she took a role in the town’s production of The Sound of Music, and has sung in various local venues.
“I wanted it open to everyone,” he adds. “I really want it to be a family event as well, so that people can bring their kids and enjoy it and have fun — and maybe it’ll inspire some kids to practice a little bit harder on the piano at home, or with their singing lessons.”
To register for Nelson’s Best Singer visit kootenaysbestsinger.com and fill out the registration form or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Auditions will be July 8 at the Prestige Lakeside Resort from 4 to 8 p.m., and the competition goes at 7 p.m., July 28 at the Capitol Theatre. Everyone’s encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to support the Nelson Food Cupboard.