The judges have spoken, and three young female singers have emerged victorious, as the first annual Langley Has Talent contest wrapped up on Saturday night at Christian Life Assembly.
Tiffany Desrosiers took top spot in the contest — along with a $2,500 cash prize — for her rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah in a night that included a wide mixture of song and dance styles, as well as covers of some old favourites and a few original tunes.
Pianist and singer Sarah Tummon took second place with her performance of Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why and Fernridge resident Britt Bonshor played guitar and sang her way into the third spot with an original song, titled Breaking Free. Tummon and Bonshor each received a $250 prize.
The top 15 acts, chosen from 29 semifinalists who performed on April 16, took the stage once again at CLA on April 30 to compete for $3,000 in cash and a trio of industry prize packages.
In addition to highlighting local musical talent, the contest — hosted by JRfm’s Bob Saye and presented by Langley’s four Rotary Clubs — served to raise funds for, and awareness of the need for a dedicated performing arts centre in Langley.
Following Desrosiers performance, judge Susan Jacks told the singer that she’d surprised the seasoned recording artist.
“When you started, I didn’t know if you could handle it, but by the end, you blew me away. You’ve got a great set of pipes,” said Jacks.
Lissa Lloyd, owner of Lloyd Talent who also judged the semifinals, praised the singer’s “clear and passionate” performance and “smokey” voice.
“There was a tremendous layer of passion that I looked for last time, and it really came through tonight,” she said.
The night’s third judge, Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, echoed Lloyd’s sentiment.
“You had a breathy style to start out, but as you built up, you really brought out the passion in the song,” he told the singer.
Hearing her name called out in the top spot at the end of the night came as a complete surprise, said Desrosiers
“It was a wonderful feeling, and it could not have come at a better time,” she said.
“They say it’s a hard industry, but until you’ve tried it for yourself (you don’t know). It can be very discouraging, and this (win) was a bump in the right direction.”
The 24-year-old singer has had Hallelujah in her repertoire for the past five years, and knew it was a strong choice for the final show.
Two weeks earlier, during semifinal competition, she took a bit more of a risk and sang a relatively new song — Adele’s Someone Like You.
“I was looking for a newer cover to do, and a couple of people mentioned they thought it would suit my voice,” she said of her choice of song for the semis.
As the first place winner, Desrosiers had her choice of three prize packages. She selected one that includes studio time at both Blue Frog Studios and Shaw Cable.
Although she opted to sing covers for both performances, Desrosiers does write her own music as well, she said.
Currently, she is trying to get her independent solo CD some radio airplay and expects the package she selected will help her to produce more new songs and to get her name and her music out to a wider audience.
Her new single High, can be heard on her website at tiffanydesrosiers.com.
Although she’s been performing for 15 years, Desrosiers admitted she still gets butterflies before stepping on stage.
“I can tame it more now,” she said. “I do stretches to release the (nervous) energy.”
“I was so impressed by all the other acts. I thought everyone brought something really special,” said Desrosiers.
“And I would like to thank all of the judges, volunteers, organizers, and the Rotary Clubs of Langley for sponsoring the event and for all their hard work.”
For 18-year-old Tummon, the competition offered an opportunity to perform in public.
“It just really boosted my confidence,” said the Grade 12 music major at Langley Fine Arts School.
After singing Sarah McLachlan’s Angel in the semifinal round (the same song she’d performed at her aunt’s funeral a year earlier) Tummon turned to another female singer-songwriter for her finals entry — Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why — for her second place finish.
“The music really spoke to me. It’s so beautiful, and so is the imagery.”
Although she’s been playing since she was six, Tummon described herself as “a closet singer” until she was 13 or 14.
“I was always a little bit shy,” she explained.
Nineteen-year-old Bonshor, meanwhile, began playing guitar at 15 in order to accompany herself at open mic nights, explained the singer-songwriter.
Like her song Seven which she performed for the contest semifinal’s, Bonshor’s third-place winning song Breaking Free is an original piece, written about her own life experiences — specifically a night she was grounded by her dad when she wanted to go to a swing dance.
“It was snowing, but I snuck out in my dancing shoes,” said Bonshor.
The teenager made her way across a snowy paddock and to a nearby convenience store where her friend was waiting.
“When (my dad) saw my footprints in the snow the next morning, he was more impressed than mad,” she laughed.
In addition to the contestants’ performances, the audience was treated to a short comedy act by Cliff Prang during intermission and a two-song acoustic set from country star Aaron Pritchett following the competition, while the judges made their selections.
The singer, who makes his home in Aldergrove when he’s not on the road, told the crowd about his own involvement with talent contests, and how winning Project Discovery in 2001 helped to kick start his career.
Far from being an end in itself, cautioned Pritchett, the competition is “a stepping stone to get them to that next level.
“It’s about what you do after winning the contest.”
Organizer Peter Luongo was delighted with the way the two concerts — six months in the works — played out.
“I felt really good about it.There were a couple of little glitches that are always going to happen,” he said.
“It’s very clear our community has a tremendous amount of talent and it’s clear that talent needs a place where it can be shared,” he said.
Some people might agree with the judges’ choices, while others may not, Luongo said. But the end result is that it gets people talking about the arts — which is a huge victory in itself.
“It has created a bit of a buzz. It was cool to hear that buzz afterward — ‘I’d have voted for this person.’
“The night was about raising awareness and starting a fund, and both those things happened.”
The Langley Has Talent final competition will air on Shaw television on May 21 at 4 p.m. and again on May 29 at 2 p.m.