The “Quest” is over.
Dylan Ossachuk's powerful vocals took the judges by storm during his performance of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody" on Friday night at the annual "Quest for the Best” singing competition held under the big tent at the Sorting Gap Marina in conjunction with the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
He then topped fellow competitor Kelly Clark in the “Battle Song" finale, set to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer,” to earn the $1,000 grand prize.
“Dylan has got such a powerful, rich tonal quality to his voice, and his range is just incredible,” said Brittany Strachan, one of the three judges.
“'Bohemian Rhapsody' was a huge, very brave undertaking and he did an outstanding job with it—song choice is such an important part of these competitions,” she added.
With two powerful voices belting out the lyrics, the judges said it was tough to determine a victor but ultimately Ossachuk was awarded the crown.
“He was just that little bit better," noted Diane Maxey. "His performance was outstanding this year . . . he deserved it.”
For her part, Strachan said Clark “owned the stage and seemed more comfortable with the song" but admitted Ossachuk's "voice just absolutely blew me away.”
Afterwards, Ossachuk said he was on the fence about signing up for “Quest" this year but ultimately decided to join as he feels he has a good connection with the back-up band, "The Faculty,” and enjoys being in the crowd.
He added it “just wouldn't feel right” if he didn't enter.
His song choice also was a bit of a gamble.
“I was laying in bed and I said, 'Well, you know what? I think I should just play fire with fire and see what happens,'” Ossachuk recalled.
“I picked the hardest song I could think of, that I could hit, and I went for it.”
The gamble paid off as he soon was back on stage in the final battle for the “Quest” title.
“The 'Battle Song' was fun," Ossachuk remarked. "I've had a lot of success with Bon Jovi so I felt confident going in and I didn't need to worry about the extra stuff, I felt.”
This year's “Quest” judges admit it was a tough group to evaluate as the performances continued to blow them away.
“Hardest one ever,” said Maxey.
“It was the most fun that I've ever had but it was also one of the toughest to judge.”
Vocal quality, including pitch, tone, control, and dynamics, was a big part of what was judged. But presence on stage, as well as how the space was used, also were factors that separated the competitors.
With the large amount of talent to hit the stage, the deliberation between Strachan, Maxey, and fellow judge Pauline Jolicoeur to determine the “Quest” champ took some time.
Even though Ossachuk and Clark were the top two of the night, the judges were impressed with what they saw.
Both Maxey and Strachan agreed that Joey Payeur's a cappella performance of “General Taylor” by Great Big Sea was all bravery and heart.
“That was a very difficult thing he did and to come out like that,” Maxey noted.
“He put his heart and soul into it and it really showed.”
Strachan said the performance was so moving, it brought her to tears and “completely stole my heart.”
Payeur won the second-place prize for set #2.
This year's “Quest” not only had a lot of talent but also quite a few rookies as seven out of the 20 contestants were new to the contest.
Lexie Alcock from Kenora was one of those new singers to hit the “Quest” stage this year.
“I know people from Fort Frances and they recommended the competition for me,” she remarked.
“I enjoy singing and I decided why not take a chance?”
Alcock sang “Oh Darlin'” by Dana Fuchs, a song that is a favourite of hers and one she thought would be entertaining for everyone.
Not only was this her first time singing in “Quest,” it was her first time singing with a band.
“At first it was quite overwhelming," Alcock admitted. "But afterwards, it was just amazing and I really loved the feeling of it.”
She added the crowd also was very good, and appreciated the reaction they had to her singing.
While the contestants of “Quest” battle for a grand prize of $1,000, many other prizes also were up for grabs, including second place in each set, People's Choice, and the Dark Horse Award.
The Band's Choice award, chosen by “The Faculty," this year was given to Kristina Robertson, who sang "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall.
This was her sixth year competing in the contest and said she could never imagine missing it.
She likes to sing and perform but not always for large crowds—except when it comes to “Quest.”
“I don't like singing full tilt in front of people,” Robertson admitted.
“So I feel like this is a reason for me to go full tilt in front of people without feeling awkward.”
Robertson also said winning the Band's Choice award was a very big deal and compared it to winning People's Choice because "people come up to you and say, 'I want to vote for you.'
"That's a bigger deal than winning anything even though it's a lesser money prize. . . .
“I feel the exact same for the Band Choice because they have to work with everybody.”
Robertson was visibly excited—and shocked—as she accepted her award on stage.
“I just started crying," she said. "The band decides that you were the hardest-working one.”
Other “Quest” winners included:
Rookie Award—Emma Bone (“Dirty Laundry" by Carrie Underwood) & Haleigh Boshey ("Halo” by Beyonce);
“Dark Horse"—Mason Ottertail ("Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash);
“Showstopper"—Socorro Galusha and Erica Tymkin ("Son of a Preacher Man” by Soulshine Quintet);
People's Choice (first set)—Haleigh Boshey;
People's Choice (second set)—Elizabeth Allan (“Valery” by Amy Winehouse);
Second place (first set)—Adrian Indian (“Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughn); and
Second place (second set)—Joey Payeur (“General Taylor” by Great Big Sea).
The “Quest for the Best Competition” was presented once again by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce.