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The Sounds of Music

Erika Janz was in her early thirties when she and her friend Anne Stollbert dreamt up the idea of creating a German Ladies Choir in Calgary in 1974. Janz had come to Canada from Germany in the 1950s as a child.
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Erika Janz was in her early thirties when she and her friend Anne Stollbert dreamt up the idea of creating a German Ladies Choir in Calgary in 1974. Janz had come to Canada from Germany in the 1950s as a child. Anne was Dutch, but her husband was German. They both loved singing. Their group has been filling the foothills with music ever since. Over four decades later, they are 36 voices strong. A few members have come and gone-and some have gone and come back again. Of the original 14, six are still members.

The members come from all over-Germany, Switzerland, Finland and Korea. "It doesn't matter what nationality anyone is," Erika says. "Music is international."

Janz is the emcee and president; Stollbert is the director. They regularly perform in nursing homes, senior centres, churches and for multicultural organizations or events. Sometimes they sing in German. Sometimes they sing in English, Italian or Russian. Sometimes they make the audience sing or act out the words. Often they include little skits into their performances. That should be more than enough to keep one choir busy, but it's not nearly the end of the list. Every year for 27 years, they've held an advent concert in November that sells out without any advertising, Erika says, but all by word of mouth. "We were also invited to sing in the Cathedral of Cologne in Germany," she adds. They've been involved in the World Choir Games - an international musical competition inspired by the Olympics. In 2008, they took home silver and bronze. Over the years, they have produced three CDs.

Most recently, they performed at the Creative Aging AGM at Garrison Green Seniors Community in June. The concert included many of their usual favourites: Happy Wanderer, Wooden Heart, Rocka My Soul and a few Viennese melodies. The classic, Edelweiss, was sung in both German and English with audience participation. A stand-in for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the original Mozart being occupied in other pursuits) was in attendance. This special guest came to the stage in a powdered wig, tails and white stockings. Toward the end of the performance they sang Ian Tyson's Four Strong Winds, a melancholy reflection on the end of a relationship. The sadness of the song was in contrast to the ladies' themselves. "Four are over 80 years old. Five are under 70," Janz says. "The rest are somewhere in between. Getting old is not too bad."