This was a beautiful event to witness: A surprise wedding proposal planned by a stealth chorister and hundreds of fellow singers. Beautiful.
The Gettin’ Higher Choir did more than sing about love and happiness at an afternoon concert Sunday. The more-than-200-member group helped a fellow chorister in an elaborate surprise proposal to his girlfriend, also in the choir.
Choral director Shivon Robinsong invited Niilo Van Steinburg and Sara McLaughlin to introduce themselves to the audience before the choir was set to sing “Love and Happiness,” a song by Kimmie Rhodes and Emmylou Harris.
Robinsong told the crowd they like to invite choir members to tell their stories every now and then. Unbeknownst to McLaughlin, the invitation was a ploy to get the couple stage front — a ploy planned by her boyfriend, Robinson, co-director Denis Donnelly and hundreds of singers.
McLaughlin told the audience: “Just after we started dating, Niilo thought we could join the Gettin’ Higher Choir as something we could do together as a couple.”
Van Steinburg said he enjoyed the choir so much he wanted to try conducting it — right then. Robinsong obliged and Van Steinburg took the podium, lifting his hands to a wall of voices singing the name “Sara.”
He asked to Donnelly to help him the second time and as they sang his girlfriend’s name, he got down on one knee and offered her a crystal rose singing, “Will you marry ...” with the choir. The “me” was sung by Van Steinburg alone.
The audience, which included many of the couple’s family members who had travelled for the surprise, went wild. McLaughlin said yes and the couple sang “Love and Happiness” side-by-side with the choir and soloist Kim E. Willoughby, gazing into each other’s eyes.
Afterward, McLaughlin said she almost didn’t make the performance because of a cold. She had no idea what her partner was planning as he cleverly used the rose to propose instead of her grandmother’s heirloom ring and Yukon gold that they’d discussed in the past.
Robinsong said this is the first surprise proposal the choir has performed, but it is not the first romance to blossom in the group. Several couples have met in the Gettin’ Higher Choir and some have married.
“Too many to even count,” Robinsong said. “Something about singing together really opens up the heart. Plus, people look very beautiful when they sing.”
The Gettin’ Higher Choir was founded in 1996 by Robinsong. It is an non-auditioned community choir with a mission to raise funds for community projects in Africa and B.C.
Sunday’s concert was the second in a series to raise money for the Power of Hope, a non-profit arts program for youth. Texas singer Rhodes was scheduled to perform at the concerts but cancelled two weeks ago because of her husband’s illness.
Luckily, Willoughby and Cortes Island singer/singwriter Rick Bockner stepped in to save the day.
For more information on the Gettin’ Higher Choir, visit: gettinhigherchoir.ca