Upbeat tunes and classic ballads filled the air Friday night at the annual “Quest for the Best” singing competition, which once again was held in conjunction with the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
Twenty participants took centre stage under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina to entertain the full house and panel of judges with a wide variety of music.
But perhaps the evening’s most memorable performance was an explosive vocal duel between Charity Alverson and Dylan Ossachuk during the “Battle Round.”
The pair performed a joint rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” after winning first place in their respective divisions ($500 each).
The crowd cheered on the singers, who traded verses in the tune they only had rehearsed individually with back-up band, “The Faculty.”
In the end, however, judges John Dutton, Diane Maxey, and Brittany Hayes chose Alverson, now a second-time “Quest” champ, as winner of the $1,000 grand prize.
Hayes, who lost to Alverson in 2011, said it was her ability to “take risks in the song” that made her this year’s front-runner.
“They were both at home on stage,” noted Hayes.
“They knew how to capture their audience and keep them riveted through the entire performance, so it was great to hear them singing together.
“But for me, Charity came out on top because she went ahead and took off with her vocal rifts,” Hayes added.
“She took it that notch above and just rocked it.”
Alverson, who only recently moved back to Fort Frances from Manitoba, is a veteran in the world of singing competitions, having cracked the top 100 in “Canadian Idol” back in 2004.
Despite her ability to beat out 30,000 others vying for a spot on the coveted show 10 years ago, the excited “Quest” champ said she was just as nervous standing before old friends and new faces here.
“There was a lot of good talent, just like last time,” the breathless 28-year-old recalled.
“I didn’t actually make it to rehearsal so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she admitted
“I honestly didn’t think I’d place, but then at the very last second it happened again,” Alverson added.
“I’m feeling completely shocked.”
Although Hayes has taken the coveted “guest performance” spot, and served as a judge since winning “Quest” in 2012, she feels ready to pass the torch to Alverson, who is eager to take on both roles.
“I am really hoping they will let me come back as a judge or let me be a guest performer next year,” Alverson enthused.
“Now that I’ve moved back, I would love to be involved with the competition and volunteer with everything from set-up on.”
A cordial Ossachuk was far from discouraged by his second-place finish. In fact, the 17-year-old self-taught musician said he hopes to be back next year for the ninth year running.
“It was a pretty big honour to get out there and battle this year,” he remarked.
“That is always something I’ve wanted to do since I started, especially in a competition where there are a lot of good people singing,” he noted.
“I am pretty busy with hockey, but I like to get out there and sing and play guitar whenever I can,” added Ossachuk, who said he no longer gets nervous when going on stage.
“I really enjoy doing it and I think I did pretty well this year, so I wouldn’t change anything about it,” he stressed.
Even with an explosive ending to the night, it was clear “Quest” was just as much about giving singers of varying levels of experience the chance to belt it out in front of a large crowd as it was about crowning a winner.
Kristina Robertson, the “People’s Choice” award recipient ($150) and runner-up in the second set ($300), said her time in the spotlight was a life highlight.
“It’s just so much fun to be up there,” she remarked. “It was such an adrenaline rush for me.
“I knew I wanted to get up there and rock it, but I can’t believe that people put their loonies in for me,” added Robertson, referring to the voting process for the “People’s Choice” award.
“It is amazing to be supported like that,” she said.
“Events like this get me excited to perform and excited about living here.”
Other winners included Delio Rossi, who took home second place in the first set ($300) and the “Dark Horse” award ($250) for a spirited version of the Beastie Boy’s “Check It Out.”
Brian Denby, 13, was chosen as Rookie of the Year after stealing the hearts of judges with Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” ($100).
McKenna Begin, who sings the national anthem before Fort Frances Lakers’ games, captured the Show Sponsor prize ($100) for her version of Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
Veteran “Quest” competitor Joleigh Hayes also nabbed a People’s Choice award ($150) for another Miranda Lambert song entitled “Gravity.”
And Dennis Morrisseau, who gave a riveting performance of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” claimed this year’s “Audience Response” award ($250).