'Music brings people together': Canadian karaoke stars eye return to world championships

For the second consecutive year, the Karaoke World Championships will be held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it hasn't dampened the buzz as singers set their sights on the big event.

‘For the last couple of years, our champs have been from Hamilton going to the worlds’: Team Canada's coach

Shannon Niehaus of Edmonton is the reigning Canadian karaoke champion. Qualifying is underway for the Karaoke World Championships (KWC), which is online again this year due to the pandemic. (Submitted by Dustin Jodway)

For the second consecutive year, the Karaoke World Championships (KWC) will be held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn't dampened the buzz as singers set their sights on getting into the big event.

The KWC, which calls itself the world's largest amateur singing competition, was founded in Finland in 2003. It attracts vocalists who don't make a living out of singing or have a management or recording contract with a major label, part of the rules.

 "There's the qualifying round and then there's the provincial round," said Dustin Jodway, coach of the Canadian team preparing for the November worlds. "From the provincial it goes on to the national round. The winners of the national round then get to go to worlds.

"So far we've got about two dozen countries that are going to be sending in representatives for the worlds.

Team Canada coach Dustin Jodway will also serve as a judge at KWC 2021. (Submitted by Dustin Jodway)

"As Team Canada's head coach and one of many judges, I would be thrilled to work with any of the competitors to prepare for the world stage. Canada has some incredible talent from far and wide, and I am confident that no matter what province they are from, they will represent our country with style and class."

In 2020, the virtual WLC was won by by Garvaundo Hamilton, who sang Coldplay's Fix You to take his fifth solo title

Jodway and Christine Costa, who both perform at a small karaoke bar in Hamilton, sang their way into the KWC in 2018 after winning the duet category at the nationals.

Last year, Hamilton was represented at the worlds by Anthony Carbone. Edmonton and Kitchener, Ont., had one entrant each.

"This year we're finally doing duets again … so we're  excited to be able to have representation from Canada competing in duets once again," said Jodway. 

'Moments together are so valued'

Dr. Sharon Quinn, the national director for KWC Canada, told CBC News: "While we miss travelling with Team Canada, and celebrating music and talent in person, we have a wonderful opportunity to get together virtually and provide people with additional motivation to keep singing and expressing themselves through music during these challenging times. These moments together are so valued, especially now." 

Shannon Niehaus, Canada's reigning karaoke champion, said the KWC has helped keep people connected throughout the pandemic. 
Team Canada and friends in Tokyo for the 2018 KWC: Christine Costa, Jodway, Katey Day-Reick, Kate Dion, Candace Miles, Susan Cook, Marc Peters, Dr. Sharon Quinn (national director) and Erin Meyer. (Submitted by Dustin Jodway)

"What I love about KWC is that it is a family, a worldwide family where we cheer each other on, celebrate each other and learn from each other," Nihaus told CBC News.

"No matter what challenges come our way, KWC has kept us connected and kept us singing." 

Music brings people together

Throughout the pandemic, karaoke performers have been finding new and innovative ways to be heard.

Last summer, Tracie's Place Karaoke Bar and Restaurant constructed a shower stall, complete with curtains and tubular piping, on stage for singing.

"We know that music brings people together. We're all locked down, we've got nothing to do and with this type of competition, we do a lot of Zoom meetings, we do a lot of webinars," said Jodway.

It gives us a little bit of normalcy in our lives for the people that usually go out and sing.- Dustin Jodway, Team Canada's karaoke coach

"We really get engaged with the competitors, so it's really nice for the competitors to have something to look forward to. It's just been such a [difficult] time, so we're working with these people, we're getting people to sing again. 

"Half of these people, all they do is go out to karaoke bars and because we can't have that, it gives us a little bit of normalcy in our lives for the people that usually go out and sing, and have the community aspect of it," he said.

Jodway, who will also serve as a KWC judge, said singers still have time to get into the qualifiers for Ontario. Anyone who's interested has until May 7 to register.

The KWC is set for Nov. 6, 13, 20, 25 and 27.


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