Meet the best singers in the Kootenay region

The 2014 Kootenays’ Best Singer top three, (from left) Fort Steele’s Tyrel Hawke (first) Fernie’s Maria Landa (second) and Nelson’s Emma Chart (third) with producer Vern Gorham. - Photo Brian Lawrence
The 2014 Kootenays’ Best Singer top three, (from left) Fort Steele’s Tyrel Hawke (first) Fernie’s Maria Landa (second) and Nelson’s Emma Chart (third) with producer Vern Gorham.
— image credit: Photo Brian Lawrence


A 25-year-old nurse from Fort Steele was named the region’s best vocalist in the final edition of Kootenays’ Best Singer, which ran Saturday at the Prince Charles Theatre.

Tyrel Hawke, who also competed in last year’s regional contest, was declared the winner by the evening’s three judges, all from Alberta: Canadian County Music Award-winner Duane Steele, musical theatre director Rachelle Sugden and voice instructor Tekarra Roach.

Hawke’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the first round — “I do just a different twist on the end, which I enjoy,” he said — easily took him to the second, and his crowd-pleasing Feeling Good, as covered by Michael Bublé, propelled him into first place.

“All the singers were fantastic,” said producer Vern Gorham. “But there is no question that Tyrel brought a bit extra. There is no question that he was also the people’s choice, as he was the only singer to get a curtain call.”

Hawke previously competed in the 2013 Cranbrook’s Best Singer contest, placing in the top two and moving on to the regional contest, held last year in Cranbrook. He landed in the top six, with Nelson’s Charlie Pears-Smith taking the top spot.

“I thought I had it in the bag — but I didn’t,” he said.

Having started taking piano lessons when he was four, and becoming more inspired by a high school teacher’s composition class, Hawke was thrilled to take the top spot in the region.

“I’ve worked really hard at it,” Hawke said. “No feeling beats being on the stage.”

Fifteen singers performed in this year’s regional contest, with the top three from Creston’s Best Singer — Cara Waddle, Taya Blackmore and Tamara Leavitt — taking on two from Nelson’s Best Singer and 10 others, gleaned from last year’s contest. Waddle ended up placing in the top six, with Fernie’s Maria Landa placing second and Nelson’s Emma Chart coming in third.

Both East Kootenay and West Kootenay contest plans fell through this spring, after Gorham tried to enlist the help of other groups to take on the contest. A new job as a financial advisor has left his with little time to continue the contest series, and he announced that Saturday’s would be the last under his leadership, although he would like to see it continue.

“It is a fun event, and allows people of all ages to share their musical abilities,” he said. “If someone who was tied to a non-profit, and therefore could qualify for grants from the various foundations, ran this, it could be a great fundraiser.

“There is still a lot of untapped potential for this contest, but it is simply too much for me to do by myself, and it’s time for me to move on to hopefully let other more qualified people run with it. But I hope it continues, because I love listening to people sharing their talents.”

After holding the regional competition in Crabrook in 2012 and 2013, was pleased to hold the final contest in Creston, back where he started Creston’s Best Singer four years ago.

“It was a pleasure to be able to bring some of the great Kootenay talent here to Creston,” he said. “Especially since this is my last show, I wanted it to be at home. It gave me a chance to say goodbye around the people and community I care most about. It was an honour and a privilege to be able to do so.

“Also, this is where it all began. It is fitting that this is where it also ended for me.”

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