Couple found love at choral group

Port Coquitlam's Geoff and Susan Rowley met at the Maple Leaf Singers, which performs its 51st annual show next weekend at the Massey Theatre.

As children, Geoff and Susan Rowley loved to sing.

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Geoff sang bass in the Methodist church choir while growing up in Yorkshire, England, while Susan picked up vocal instruction from her parents and grandmother in her native Ontario; the soprano was also in the United church ensemble.

Older, when they moved separately to the west coast, they longed to sing and be a part of a choral group. After all, they said, it was a good way to give back to their new community and meet people.

At the time, Susan worked in health care at Hawthorne Lodge. Her friend, knowing Susan sought to join a choir, tapped Marie Gillis — who founded the Maple Leaf Singers with her husband, George — when she brought their group to entertain at the Port Coquitlam seniors complex.

Geoff was performing but Susan had the day off so the pair didn’t meet until she signed up with the Singers, in the spring of 1981.

Love blossomed and, four years later, the couple tied the knot.

SUSAN

They’ve been making sweet music ever since. “It’s nice to do things together,” said Geoff, a retired mechanical engineer designer, chief draftsman and project supervisor with mining and engineering companies. “We practise and so our home is always filled with song.”

Next weekend, the Port Coquitlam pair — who, at the time of their interview with The Tri-City News last Thursday, were expecting the arrival of their first great-grandchild — will be in their 38th spring show with the Maple Leaf Singers.

Called Don’t Stop Believin’ (a nod to the Journey tune), the Singers’ 51st annual concert — directed by Rob Gillis, the founders’ son who took over last year from Coquitlam resident Wilson Fowlie — is on May 25 at 7:30 p.m. and May 26 at 2 p.m. at the Massey Theatre.

Susan is co-producing the New Westminster event and is in the Singers quartet, The Four Tunes.

Still, the show title has special meaning to the Rowleys who, over the past 38 years with the Maple Leaf Singers, have lost a number of their peers. “It’s tough to go back and sing when they’re missing from our group,” Geoff said.

“It’s a hope that things are going to be better,” Susan noted of the phrase. “You’ve got to turn the negative into the positive.”

Susan said they enjoy being part of the Singers’ dozen performances at special events, fundraisers and seniors homes (Geoff also transports the risers for the Singers) but their spring show “is very special for us,” she said. “It’s our major fundraiser and we work really, really hard. It’s an opportunity for us to sing to a new audience.”

Susan added, “I don’t think there are as many couples who can say they’ve shared their love of choir for so long.”

For tickets to Don’t Stop Believin’ at the Massey Theatre (735 Eighth Ave., New Westminster) on May 25 and 26 call 604-521-5050 or visit ticketsnw.ca.

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