Songs bring Powell River community together

Music projects create opportunities for residents to sing as one

Success of a recent music project envisioned by its organizers to bring the Powell River community together in song was so successful, it led to a follow-up. Business partners Brittany Service and Sean Tassell are now contemplating a third collaboration, using voices from throughout the region for another unique performance.

Community separation due to the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the pair to take action. Service, a vocal coach and Tassell, a certified audio engineer, reached out over social media in search of participants.

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“With the pandemic pushing everybody apart, saying social distancing, we wanted to be able to bring everybody together and we thought music was a great way to do that,” said Service. “It is not really social distancing, it is more physical distancing.”

The plan included recording a classic song with everyday voices, without the need for collaborators to physically be in the same location, but still creating a social connection.

“More often than not these voices weren’t the local talents, they weren’t the people who were already in bands; they are just the everyday people who don’t necessarily sing in public,” said Service.

A recording of The Beatles’ classic “Let it Be” was chosen for the first project, which was released in early April. Service said there is a process to go through to attain allowance to use such tracks.

“The music industry is very finicky with a lot of red tape, so you go through and have to ask to use that song, even if you are not making any revenue from it,” she added. “Once they allow it you get this really nice instrumental.”

The partners were in agreement on the first song, thinking it would be familiar to most people and not require a lot of practising.

“The Beatles came into our brains immediately,” said Service.

For part two of the project, released in late April, a list was compiled and eventually narrowed down to two choices. In an online poll “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers was selected by voters.

“We thought it would be fun to get the community to participate a little bit more in the choosing of the song,” explained Service.

Everyone interested in lending their voice to either project sang and recorded the lyrics while listening to the provided playback, using two devices.

“They would pull up our Facebook page and have the instrumental already supplied with the rolling lyrics, plug their headphones into that device, then sing into their phone,” explained Service. “It gave us a clear recording.”

With so many different voices involved, the challenge for Tassell was mixing them all together so everyone sounded like they were singing in unison.

“The hardest part, because everybody sings the same song slightly differently, whether it is the phrasing or the timing, is getting all of those pieces to line up and layering it out properly so they all sound like they are singing it the same way,” said Tassell, who applies his technical skills at Party Rock Recordings, a business he and Service started in August of 2019. “I love this stuff; I went to school for this and it’s just fun for me to do, whether in my free time or not.”

Feedback from participants to part one of the project was overwhelming, and led to the decision to create part two, said Service.

“We would be getting all these messages saying ‘I've never done this before and it was such a cathartic experience, and thank you so much for doing it,’” she added. “It was very therapeutic, when it was supposed to be just fun. It became a lot more than that, so that pushed us to do the second one.”

While Tassell mixed the submitted tracks together, more than 20 for “Let it Be” and over 30 for “Lean On Me,” Service collected images specific to Powell River for the videos that accompanied the music. The theme of “hearts” was applied to part one.

“We put in the photos of the hearts around town, which everybody really enjoyed, then it just took off,” said Service. “The second time around we asked the vocalists to send us something that was getting them through the isolation, whether it be a new hobby, food, gardening, or somebody put in a Netflix show. There were lots of sunsets and hikes, just anything you could sort of ‘lean on,’ because that was the theme of our second song.”

Feedback also came in waves from the community, with thousands of viewings for each video.

“Reading all the comments, people were saying how wonderful it was to just hear these voices,” said Service. “It was overwhelming.”

Tassell said he is proud of the way residents came together for the project during a difficult time, and found the quality of the final products equally satisfying.

“We had a ton of views right away and it just keeps continuing to build,” he added. “Both of the ones we’ve done so far have turned out awesome. It makes me feel really good and proud to be part of this town.”

Service said more people have indicated interest in being part of a potential part three.

“I have a feeling we will do another one,” she added. “The community has been reaching out to us saying, ‘I was a little nervous the first time and then I got a little bit of cold feet the second time, but if you guys do a third, I want to participate.’ We’re not going to turn down people who want to open doors into the arts.”

The business partners encourage anyone to lend their voice to these projects, regardless of their talent level. The more people involved the better, according to Tassell.

“Not only are they getting something fun to do in their spare time, which a lot of people have a lot of these days, the more people we get the fuller the sound is going to be,” he explained. “It is going to sound like more of a choir, more of a group sing-along. When we get those voices that are a little bit more polished and have some natural talent, we try to highlight some of those in certain spots, but in the end the project sounds great and everybody has a blast.”

To view the videos, go to

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