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Turning complaints into feel-good concert

St. Albert Singers Guild ends the season with No Complaints...When You Just Smile

It’s all too easy to gripe about our stressed-out lives. Pet peeves range from crime and unpredictable weather to travel delays, government spending and the high cost of living. Instead, St. Albert Singers Guild looks at the flip side of life during its final concert of the season.  

No Complaints...When You Just Smile takes place at St. Albert United Church on May 12 and 13. Similar to previous concerts, this concert carries a strong social message couched in beautiful music and a heart-warming story. 

“This show basically follows a day in the life of six people — three women and three men. All but one is a family member. It follows them through the day with their thoughts, not their interactions. It’s all based on gratitude from the small moments in life whether it’s making a cup of coffee or being with a grandchild. It’s about how different attitudes can make your life,” said Ruth Kult, a guild singer since 2017. 

While the three women are from three succeeding generations, the men are unrelated. One of the men is a retired neighbour. The middle-aged man is employed in media and the younger man is his colleague. 

“The older woman has died, and her thoughts are a reflection on her life and parents. Her parents raised her during the war, and they had a very different parenting style than she did or her daughter and granddaughter. But the grandmother was taught to bake and despite their differences, it’s been passed down from generation to generation. This concert shows how the generations affect each other,” Kult said. 

She adds the older man, a widower, looked forward to retirement but now only gazes out the window thinking of his wife while feeling completely bored. The middle-aged man still displays confidence, but anxiety starts creeping into his life. And as we meet the youngest man, he frets about an upcoming date and the struggles he faces. 

“It’s a glimpse into extraordinary events ordinary people face,” Kult said. “You see the ordinary moments that become significant, wonderful and delightful for the watcher, and hugely reflective for all of us.” 

Artistic director Criselda Mierau has paired a series of upbeat genres from jazz and pop to rock and pop. The Louis Armstrong classic, What a Wonderful World, opens the concert and sets the tone.  

The Beatles contribute with Here Comes the Sun while Manhattan Transfer’s Java Jive rocks the program along with Bobby Darin’s Splish Splash. However, the selection that deeply affected choir members is Kurt Bestor’s Prayer of the Children. The composer wrote it out of frustration over the civil war and ethnic cleansing taking place in the former country of Yugoslavia currently divided into six countries. 

“It’s a very emotional piece. The song is about war from the perspective of children in troubled places. There’s one line ‘Help me to see the morning light of one more day.’ It’s a very powerful line and it gets more powerful from there. It’s hauntingly beautiful and splits into a series of harmonies.” 

Throughout this song, Mierau adds four young girls to showcase sign language. There are two sets of sisters: Lilly and Quinn Breitkreutz as well as Ezri and Teia Lindbeck. Choir singer Keira Lorkee leads the quartet of sign language interpreters. 

“Criselda is very inclusive. There is no saying no to someone who wants to be in this choir. She is so welcoming no matter what walk of life you’re from or whatever challenges you face.” 

And what would the concert be without J.D. Martin’s and Jan Garrett’s No Complaints Whatsoever? 

“It’s rollicking fun and upbeat. It’s all about focusing on the best in your life. Each day is a new beginning and you can make it whatever you want.” 

In closing Kult said, “What I love about this show is how it focuses on how we are the same. Today people are focused on separating into groups and how they are different from someone else’s group. This concert shows us that on a basic level, we are all the same. We have the same challenges, the same joys, the same dreams.” 

No complaints runs Friday, May 12 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 13 at 2 p.m. in St. Albert United Church. Tickets are $20 and are available through email at [email protected] or by phoning 780-293-2842. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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