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Lee Ann DeCoteau displays a variety of soap products at her O’ Canada Soapworks Ltd. store at 633 8th Street, (Main Street), in Canmore. photo by Pam Doyle/pamdoylephoto.com

PAM DOYLE / jpg, BA

Lee Ann DeCoteau combines her love of soap making with her love of music.

“They are both very creative elements of my brain,” DeCoteau said.

“Singing in the shower, I took it to a whole new level,” she joked.

DeCoteau created her company O’ Canada Soapworks on May 1, 2000 and has been at the little brown building at 633 Main Street for the past nine years.

DeCoteau is also a professional singer and choir leader. Her soap company business is bubbling, literally.

“We have a bubble machine running in the front yard of the business from March to October,” DeCoteau said. “People come up to us in the spring and ask when we will be starting to run the bubbles again. It’s a big signature of ours and the kids love it.”

DeCoteau loves soap so much that she offers 70 different kinds of it.

“I’ve been an esthetician for about 30 years and I made a lot of my own products in that time,” DeCoteau said. “Soap became a natural extension of that. Once we found we could make soap, it became my mission to re-invent the bar.”

In the beginning, she learned and experimented with ingredients and colours.

“We are always striving to enhance the quality and benefits of the product,” DeCoteau said.

It wasn’t easy starting a business in 2,000, she said.

“We survived a lot of storms, like the recession,” DeCoteau said. “At that time no one understood the value of hand made soap. Over the years I have seen consumers becoming more educated and more aware of the environment, their bodies and what is going down the drains.”

If anyone tells you soap can be made without lye, they are not making soap, she said.

Soap is a chemical reaction between lye and fat. Traditionally, lye was made from wood ash, but now it is created in a lab.

“Once it mixes with the oils and goes through a chemical reaction, (called saponification), it’s no longer the original lye,” DeCoteau said. “It’s become this new thing which we call soap.”

DeCoteau’s singing career took off when she was working in the spa on cruise ships.

“I am in a whole different world when I’m singing,” she said. “Music just elevates me, my soul and body, to a place of pure happiness. I float on these vibrations that just carry me somewhere else. Singing is like breathing for me.”

Music was always in her childhood home and her mother was a singer, so it was a very natural thing to be around growing up, she said.

“I started singing and did little sets in the bars and cabarets,” DeCoteau said. “It was a blast. But after five years on the high seas I was ready to stay on land.”

She landed in Canmore and has been involved with the Valley Winds Music Association for 20 years.

“I started singing in the choir,” DeCoteau said. “They added the Big Band and I became a vocalist. I have been co-directing the Valley Winds Choir and we are in our seventh year. The Valley Winds Big Band and Choir went to Cuba this May and paired with a couple of choirs and a band there. That band invited me to sing at the largest festival in Cuba next June.”

DeCoteau also has her own band called Fig Fusion.

“We play corporate events and dances,” DeCoteau said. “We were the first trio at the Three Sisters Bistro and the first musical band at Good Earth.”

The band now includes Marsh Kennedy on bass, Bob Bean on saxophone and clarinet, Karen Rollins on ukulele, Larry Jarret on percussion ad Steven Hussey on guitar. DeCoteau has made music DVDs with some rock and big time show numbers.

“I don’t put myself in a particular genre,” she said. “The band plays folk, jazz, country and classic rock.”

DeCoteau is also the musical director for the current Pine Tree Players presentation of Young Frankenstein.

“It’s the biggest production PTP has ever done,” DeCoteau said. “Our opening night was sold out and historically that has never happened before at the Miner’s Union Hall.”

The show continues this week with evening performances on Thursday, November 21, Nov. 22 and Nov. 23. Tickets are going fast at on eventbrite.

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