The K Sisters, Saturday, June 23 at 7: 30 p.m. at the Silk Purse Arts Centre, part of the 12th annual Jazz Waves festival. Tickets: $18/$20 (includes a beverage). Info: silkpurse.ca.
IT was an incredible gift.
A family friend of Karen Lee-Morlang's, a 91-year-old Second World War veteran who'd taught himself to play piano by ear and was adept in the barrelhouse and boogie-woogie styles, gave the Vancouver-based pianist and vocalist a stack of original boogie-woogie sheet music.
"That was my first exposure and I just thought, 'This stuff is so amazing,'" says Lee-Morlang.
The gentleman also introduced her to The Andrews Sisters, an all-female vocal group active during the same era.
"I heard these fabulous harmonies and it was unbelievable that these women, they worked so hard and they could also dance," she says.
Lee-Morlang will be forever grateful for the musical education bestowed upon her as it paved the way for her burgeoning vocal ensemble, The K Sisters. Taking their lead from the music of yesteryear, while at the same time bringing their own unique energy and feel, since their official launch in 2010, the group is continuing to entertain audiences of all ages with their retrothemed artistry.
"The genre's definitely a little bit unusual for all four of us because originally we all started out more as classical musicians," says Lee-Morlang.
Having met through their various connections to the University of British Columbia, they were captivated by the close female harmonies, choreography, theatrical elements, overall entertainment value and calibre of the songs and decided to embark on a new adventure, drawing on their extensive musical backgrounds. Their name is derived from the original membership, whose names began with the letter K.
The K Sisters released their debut in 2010, a holiday album entitled Jingle Jangle! They followed that with last year's Swingin' With The K Sisters, paying homage to The Andrews Sisters and carrying a Second World War theme.
Among the songs featured are classics "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Bei Mir Bist du Shein."
"For us it's very meaningful when we are performing for either veterans or seniors who knew this music so well. It's kind of like their pop music," says Lee-Morlang. "They know every word and they know that sound."
The K Sisters are set to take the stage at West Vancouver's Silk Purse Arts Centre, Saturday, June 23 at 7: 30 p.m., part of the West Vancouver Community Arts Council's 12th annual Jazz Waves Festival, on now until August.
"For me, especially at the piano, I think I'm just having such a ridiculously good time that I'm always excited for each show. I admire the girls who are standing up singing and doing a lot more choreography than I am and I think they're really amazing," says Lee-Morlang.
In addition to Lee-Morlang, who's also a member of The No Shit Shirleys and a concert pianist, host and producer, the current line-up includes: soprano Caitlin Beaupré, musical director at West Vancouver's St. Francisinthe-Wood Anglican Church, and a member of musica intima; mezzo-soprano Jennifer McLaren, an accordion virtuoso, theatre performer and a member of the Vancouver Chamber Choir; and, soprano Madeline Lucy Smith, a member of the Vancouver Chamber Choir.
At the Silk Purse, The K Sisters will throw in a few Andrews Sisters' numbers here and there, though plan to debut some of their new arrangements and songs, specifically by three of the most famous Tin Pan Alley composers, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Lee-Morlang says this will be their direction on their next record, anticipating them to get going with recording in the next six months or so.
In addition to their vocal, piano and dance chops displayed in each performance, The K Sisters go to great lengths to ensure their look is also reminiscent of the musical eras they're paying tribute to.
"We definitely love a more retro style, to try to bring back the authenticity for what singers would have looked like for the time that they were singing this music, in the day and age of the composer, so that's especially fun for us," says Lee-Morlang.
Previous tours have meant group members have finally learned how to do victory rolls and Lee-Morlang's background in costume design has come in handy.
"In high school, I had a lot of trouble deciding whether to do costume design or to go into music. . . . I went into music but then what happened was everybody started finding out that I liked to make costumes so I would end up spending half my time making costumes for my singers. So now it's perfect, I make costumes for my band."
Following their upcoming Silk Purse performance, The K Sisters will take the stage at Kitsilano's Cellar Jazz Club, July 11 at 8 and 10 p.m.
To watch videos of The K Sisters in action, visit their YouTube channel, theksistersmusic, or for more information, visit www. theksisters.com.