I recently found myself with a bit more spare time in my schedule — a luxury nowadays — and wondered how to fill it. I wanted to do something creative, collaborative and musical, so after a bit of reflection, I decided to join a choir.
This was not unfamiliar territory for me. As a child and young adult, I did a lot of choral singing — some even at a professional level — but it had been close to 20 years. I was hesitant.
However, two months into this commitment, I'm convinced it was the right move. In fact, I have been so effusively enthusiastic, my friends urged me to write about it. (Probably hoping I would stop talking.)
Read the list below for nine reasons to join a choir, and to see photos of some fine choirs across Canada currently accepting new members. You should join!
1. You get to sing great repertoire
When we think about great classical music, we tend to focus on symphonies, concertos, sonatas, string quartets and operas. But the truth is, many of the best composers saved their most inspired creativity for choral music. (Think Bach's B Minor Mass, Fauré's Requiem, Vaughan Williams's Sea Symphony.)
Pictured below: Under the direction of Paul Halley, Halifax's 24-voice King's College Chapel Choir performs at weekly evensong and eucharist services in the King’s College Chapel, as well as other major services throughout the academic year.
2. It's an excellent stress reliever
You rush to meet deadlines, deal with unhappy clients, cope with a rage-aholic boss and — if you're lucky — eat lunch in front of your computer. By the time you get to your choir rehearsal, you're a nervous wreck. But sitting up straight, relaxing your shoulders and breathing from your diaphragm is a great way to return to your centre and leave the day's stress behind you.
Pictured below: Montreal's St. Lawrence Choir is a 70-member mixed-voice ensemble that performs classical repertoire and contemporary works. The artistic director is Philippe Bourque.
3. You meet new people
Nowadays people make "friends" without ever meeting in person. Joining a choir is an old-school way to meet nice, like-minded people interested in having a good time together. What a concept!
Pictured below: Toronto's Choir! Choir! Choir! was started in 2011 by Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman as a weekly drop-in, no-commitment singing event open to anyone who likes to sing new arrangements of pop songs. It has blossomed into a very cool thing.
4. You learn to listen
While it's fun to belt it out like Björling, a key to good choral singing is paying attention to what's going on around you — listening. (It's a good thing to do outside choir, too.) A rule of thumb is, if you can't hear the person next to you, you're singing too loudly.
Pictured below: Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir, an auditioned community choir with no specific religious affiliation, is based at Vancouver's Christ Church Cathedral. Good Noise is directed by founding artistic director Gail Suderman.
5. It's a workout for your brain
Most choirs require basic music-reading skills, which are known to increase the capacity of your memory, sharpen your concentration and improve your spatial organization. You hit the gym three times a week to keep your body in shape (right?). Think of choir as boot camp for your brain.
Pictured below: Edmonton's Chronos Vocal Ensemble won the Healey-Willan Grand Prize at the 2015 National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs. Jordan Van Biert is the artistic director.
6. It's an exercise in teamwork
A choir is the perfect manifestation of the adage "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." You don't need to have a particularly beautiful voice to contribute to a beautiful, collective sound. Being part of something bigger than yourself is both humbling and motivating.
Pictured below: Based in St. Catharines, Ont., 100-voice Chorus Niagara draws its membership from throughout the Niagara peninsula and from as far away as Hamilton and Buffalo, N.Y. The artistic director is Robert Cooper.
7. You don't need to buy any equipment
All you need to sing in a choir is your voice, a bottle of water and a pencil for marking your music. Simple and cheap!
Pictured below: Toronto's Nathaniel Dett Chorale is dedicated to Afrocentric music of all styles, including classical, spiritual, gospel, jazz, folk and blues. Braindern Blyden-Taylor is the artistic director.
8. You'll learn a lot of choir jokes
Q: How many altos does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. They can't get that high.
Pictured below: Winnipeg's Midnight Choir is an open-membership musical project. They perform songs ranging from Radiohead to David Bowie to Neil Young. No musical experience is necessary to join.
9. It's uplifting
Every day, we're bombarded with bad news: tragedy, terrorism, scandal, etc. While singing in a choir doesn't make those things go away, it's the perfect way to bring something positive and uplifting into your life.
Pictured below: The Ottawa Children's Choir promotes the advancement of children's musical education and appreciation of choral music, performing regularly within the National Capital Region.