The Mount Baker Toppers are the musical guests at the monthly meeting of the Bellingham Music Club at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 119 Texas St. The meeting is free and open to the public.
The director of this harmonic group of men is Doug Broersma, 55, who was born in Bellingham and grew up in Lynden, graduating from Lynden Christian High School in 1975.
The Toppers are always looking for new members, says Broersma. They meet on Tuesday evenings at First Christian Church on East Bakerview Road. For more on the Toppers, go to topperschorus.org.
Question: When did you first begin singing?
Answer: My first singing gig was when I was 7 years old. I went with my parents' church group to sing at the Whatcom County Jail to the prisoners. I sang "Jesus Loves Me" through the jail bars with my mother playing a small pump organ. I remember seeing a toilet in the middle of the jailhouse with no partition walls around it. I swore that day I would never go to jail because I like to do my toilet duties in private.
Q: What groups have you sung with?
A: I sang in church choir and in the school choir. I learned to play the saxophone in sixth grade by my LCS music teacher and early mentor, Del Vandekerk. In my freshman year, my dad, Lloyd Broersma, invited me to sing with his barbershop chorus (the Mount Baker Toppers - I thought they were barbers). I went and got hooked immediately on barbershop style and a cappella music. I started a barbershop quartet in high school and we had tons of opportunity to sing for chapel and other school functions and it was a blast.
I have no post-high school music education, aside from lots of vocal and ensemble coaching, and attending music education clinics.
Q: What do you enjoy singing?
A: My musical passion is a cappella, barbershop and vocal jazz. I got to sing in groups with my dad, my brothers (and later on my son Tim) in a group called Realtime; we won the World Champion Barbershop title in 2006. They later asked me to be their lead singer, which springboarded me into a whole new world of musical opportunity. I am currently singing with a group called viaVoice (vvvocals.com), a quartet made up of two Canadians and two of us from here in Whatcom County.
With this group I have had the opportunity to do shows all over the U.S. and Canada, Germany, Russia, Italy, Finland and France. It has been a terrific experience.
Q: What about the Toppers?
A: I started directing the Toppers chorus eight years ago and it has been a great learning experience for me.
I am not a very good solo singer. I much prefer to be in an ensemble. Blending the voices and making harmony is what I do best. I also love the things I learn from the team dynamics of a high-performance group.
The Toppers are a huge part of my life. I assistant directed them for a number of years. They are my family. They are my close brothers. Where else can you be with such varied human beings, all different walks of life, all different vocations, beliefs, political views, religious beliefs, and come together and work as such a unified team, creating something so profound as beautiful music (well, most of the time).
Q: What's the process for learning songs?
A: In the Toppers we focus intently on a unified vision and we work as a team to pull off some great music, touching people's lives by the music we share with them. It is an awesome experience. We have men of all musical experiences. Some are classically trained soloists and some who don't know the difference between a whole note and a quartet note. But in the Toppers we all work together to get everyone on the same page and help the ones who need help.
Q: What makes it so special?
A: It is really cool. At the end of the night of working on a piece of music it really sounds wonderful and the guys feel like they have really created something great. It is one of my goals that the guys in the chorus are always learning and being stretched musically and artistically. It is great when you can see that growth in everyone. I am really proud of the Toppers. They have recently won a most improved chorus award. We have 28 regular members and are trying to build the chorus to double that size. Anyone can audition. You will be welcomed, stretched and transformed. And you will have an instant family of guys that take you in to this special brotherhood.
Q: And the Toppers travel, right?
A: The Toppers went to Finland in 2001 - my first out-of-country tour with them - and there I met my wife-to-be, Terhi, who was in charge of the festival we were singing at in Finland. She and I are now putting on the Claire De Lune Lynden Music Festival every fall (we just finished our fourth festival).
Q: What's your day job?
A: I own a cleaning business, Northwest Professional Services, specializing in carpet and upholstery cleaning, floor refinishing and water and fire damage restoration. I have been doing this since high school. I actually started the business in my senior year. (Still wondering when I am going to get a real job.)