By Barry Coulter
The top vocalists in the region went head to head Saturday night in Cranbrook, and when the notes had faded and the dust had settled, a young woman from Nelson was judged No. 1 in the second annual Kootenays’ Best Singer competition.
The event, organized by Vern Gorham of Creston, followed upon a series of competitions in seven East and West Kootenay communities, with two singers from each advancing to Saturday night’s finals at the Alliance Church. Fourteen singers brought their best before a panel of three judges, and an audience of hundreds. Seven were selected to a second round to determine first second and third place, based on a points system.
Charlie Pears-Smith of Nelson advanced to the second round on the strength of her performance of “Who’s Loving You,” by the Jackson Five. Pears-Smith then took first place after singing “If I Can’t Get You,” by Alicia Keys.
Maria Landa of Fernie placed second, and Gabriel MacDonald of Nelson took third.
The evening showcased a wide variety of performance, with the common denominator being the high level of vocal talent. Kathleen Decosse of Kimberley and Victoria Bowns of Creston performed original songs, accompanying themselves on guitar. Eleven-year-old Claire Bernier of Fernie astounded the judges with her rendition of “Pioneer” by The Band Perry.
Castlegar’s Mateo Villa’s brother James accompanied Mateo on grand piano, and Tyrel Hawke accompanied himself on piano, to “House of the Rising Sun” (both Villa and Hawkes went on to the second round). Devin Fikis of Kimberley made it through to the second round on the strength of her performance of “Back to Black,” as did Melissa Faulkner of Grand Forks, singing “When I was Your Man,” by Bruno Mars.
Other performers were Jamie Byram of Cranbrook, Wendy Faulkner of Grand Forks, Kelsea Dorosz of Castlegar, and Ben Lansing of Creston.
As top singer, Pears-Smith wins $1,000, a day and a half worth of studio recording time, and opportunities to sing at the Kaslo Jazz Festival and the Kootenay Festival.