REACH! Performing Company rehearses every Thursday at the Saanich Commonwealth Place. (Submitted)

Diverse musical group REACH! to play Sidney Days celebrations

What better way to acknowledge Canada’s birthday than with a performance from a group that celebrates integration and age diversity, cultures and abilities?

This year’s Sidney Days will feature REACH! Performing Company. Half of the 25-member group have a disability including cerebral palsy, autism, Down Syndrome, blindness and a number of other developmental challenges.

REACH! is a part of the newly-registered nonprofit West Coast Reach Association. Sidney local Anne-Marie Brimacombe is the group’s musical and artistic director and her husband Peter Brimacombe is the musical arranger. The pair founded REACH! this year, inspired by the success of a similar program they created in the past in Tobago.

Valerie Berben, from Deep Cove, has always belonged to a choir so when Anne-Marie asked her to join REACH! she was interested.

“I had never worked with anyone with special needs before … but each week, I got a better feeling as it went on. I just think it was watching the joy – the look on their faces and seeing how much they enjoyed it,” Berben says.

Berben performs closely with a young adult who is wheelchair bound due to multiple sclerosis. Berben helps her with the choreography and pushes her wheelchair when needed.

“I can’t help but look over at her and see how happy she is and how inspiring she is. It’s almost like I’m fighting back the tears,” she says.

The group rehearses and performs original songs that Berben says are inspiring and uplifting.

“I find the songs so powerful. You relate the lyrics to the people who are singing them and it’s like, wow. The theme song called ‘Reach’ – if you listen to the lyrics it’s about reaching out to others. It’s also open for interpretation. I look at the song like it’s about reaching personal goals,” she says.

The Sidney Days performance starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 30 at the Beacon Avenue Bandshell in Sidney.