3:28am

Sun December 23, 2012
Music

In Toronto, An Ad-Hoc Choir Becomes A Community

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 11:45 am

Let's say you live in Canada — say, Toronto — and you like to sing. You're not in a band, you don't get asked to sing at weddings, but singing just kind of makes you happy. Well, every Tuesday night at a local bar, you'll find a crowd of people just like you, singing their hearts out.

At the front of the room, conducting, you'll find Daveed Goldman. He's not exactly a pro either: "I sang in choirs in elementary school," he says, "but once I got to a certain age, it just wasn't cool anymore."

Goldman and Nobu Adilman are the founders of Choir! Choir! Choir! It's an ad-hoc group: no auditions, no commitment, just show up and sing. Adelman says that when they first came up with the idea, they weren't sure it would work — but at their first official gathering in February 2011, 20 people showed up.

"It was the Snowpocalypse in Toronto. We expected the whole city to be shut down," Goldman tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "At the end of it, we said, 'OK, we'll do this next month.' And everybody was like, 'No, next week!' "

Now the weekly songfests are packed, with more than 100 people jammed into one room. There's almost no space for an audience, and they don't really want one.

"We are the show," Adilman says. "Daveed and I will arrange a couple songs, people show up, we give them lyrics and they learn the songs. It's hit-and-miss, but we've got a really high batting average. We record the songs, usually on video and audio, and we've got songs that sound really good."

This holiday season, Goldman and Adilman decided it was time to start to sharing the music — by taking the choir on the road to hospitals and community groups. To hear more of their story, click the audio link on this page.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK, so let's say you live in Canada, say, Toronto, and you like to sing. You're not in a band. You don't get asked to sing at weddings, but singing just kind of makes you happy.

NOBU ADILMAN: One, two, three, four...

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR MUSIC)

MARTIN: Well, every Tuesday night at a local bar, you'll find a crowd of people just like you singing their hearts out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RUN TO YOU")

CHOIR! CHOIR! CHOIR!: (Singing) Oh, I'm going to run to you. Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, Yeah, I'm going to run to you. Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, 'cause when the feeling right I'm going to stay all night. I'm going to run to you...

MARTIN: At the front of the room conducting, you'll find Daveed Goldman. He's not exactly a pro either.

DAVEED GOLDMAN: I sang in choirs in elementary school. But certainly - once I got to be a certain age, it just wasn't cool anymore to be in a choir.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RUN TO YOU")

CHOIR!: (Singing) ...when the feeling right I'm going to stay all night. I'm going to run to you...

MARTIN: He and Nobu Adilman are the founders of Choir! Choir! Choir! It's an ad-hoc group: no auditions, no commitment, just show up and sing. Adilman says when they first came up with the idea, they weren't sure it would work. But at their first official gathering, 20 people showed up - way more than they expected.

ADILMAN: February 4, 2011 and it was the Snowpocalypse in Toronto. We expected like the whole city to be shut down. And we thought oh, no one is going to show up. And it was in the office of a friend of ours, it was a real estate office in the front foyer. At the end of it, we said OK, we'll do this next month. And everybody was like, No, next week.

GOLDMAN: No, they were seeing tomorrow.

MARTIN: Now the weekly songfests are packed. With more than 100 people jammed into one room, there's almost no space for an audience and they don't really want one.

ADILMAN: We are the show. I mean we don't need an audience. You know, Daveed and I will arrange a couple songs, people will show up, we give them lyrics and they learn the songs. And, you know, it's hit-and-miss but we've got a really high batting average. And we come out come out, we record the songs usually on video and audio, and we've got songs that sound really good.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EYE OF THE TIGER")

ADILMAN: Recently we did "Eye of the Tiger."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EYE OF THE TIGER")

CHOIR!: (Singing) Bah-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum...

ADILMAN: Daveed will start playing it. He plays guitar - this is the only instrumentation that we have - and then will start singing it. And then we'll see if we can just sort of throw a couple of things in the margins.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EYE OF THE TIGER")

CHOIR!: (Singing) ...of the tiger. Oh-ah-oh-ah-oh-bum-bum-bum-bum. Oh-ah-oh-ah-oh-bum-bum-bum-bum...

ADILMAN: And if that's just the work then we say OK, week can work with this song. And then we go to the next stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EYE OF THE TIGER")

CHOIR!: (Singing) Eye-yah, eye of the tiger it's the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival. And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night and he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger. Bum-bum-bum.

GOLDMAN: We can also be pretty harsh with people.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: I'm pretty harsh, but I mean...

MARTIN: Like you, in the back of the room - stop going sharp.

GOLDMAN: Oh, for real. I mean I'm not afraid to just let people know. I'll be like: I fear like this area, you guys have no idea what you're doing.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: You know, will go over a part like 10 times.

ADILMAN: He can sit in a room with 150 people and know exactly who went to an E when they should've gone to an F. Like, it's kind of awesome.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?")

CHOIR!: (Singing) Hey, oh-oh-oh. What's love got to do with it? What's love got to do with it? What's love but a secondhand emotion, secondhand, ooh...

GOLDMAN: A choir is a blend of voices and that's really key, because we don't do auditions - anybody is allowed to come in. There are times when there are some voices that go off in other directions, but they get smoothed out in the process of all these different voices coming together.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?")

CHOIR!: (Singing) Oh-oh-ooh. Oh-oh-oh-oh-ooh. Oh-oh-ah-ah...

MARTIN: What was that experience like with all those voices kind of resonating?

ADILMAN: It's the reason why I do choir. I think it's between that and be able to look at people and stare at - like, looking people right in the eyes and see them...

MARTIN: People you don't know, strangers.

ADILMAN: You know, we know a lot of the people in choir. I mean, we've got some - we've got a lot of people who are coming back. But, yeah, there are those instances where people come for their first time. And you're like, you know, I wonder if they're going to stick around and be back here next week. But choir has turned into a whole community that exists.

People are really taking it seriously. At the same time, they're drinking, they're flirting, they're hanging out - that kind of thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)

MARTIN: Arena Chatergis(ph) sings almost every week. She says choir welcomed her to the city.

ARENA CHATERGIS: I'm not from Toronto. I didn't know anyone in Toronto. Choir brought a great sense of community and a sense of belonging. And it made Toronto home for me.

MARTIN: Co-founders Adilman and Goldman say their choir is just plain fun but it's also a kind of musical refuge. That's what it is for Cecelia Moorcroft(ph).

CECELIA MOORCROFT: You know, I joined the choir basically at the same time that my dad was diagnosed with cancer. And so, it's been a hard fall and there's been a lot of back and forth with my family. But every week, knowing that I can come to this place - and just sing and make beautiful music and harmonies - has meant so much to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE BELONG?")

CHOIR!: (Singing) We belong to the sound of the words we've both fallen under. Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better, we belong. We belong. We belong together...

MARTIN: When choir started out, it was just about the people who showed up every week singing just for themselves. But as the choir evolved, Adilman and Goldman decided it was time to start sharing the music with other people. This holiday season they took the choir on the road to hospitals and community groups.

ADILMAN: And so, we spent the day, you know, 130 of us and we played for a lot of veterans. And they were there and they were just - they were so appreciative and they were getting into it and it was just...

GOLDMAN: It was amazing.

ADILMAN: It took a whole - it was a whole other side of choir that, you know, just made us feel really good.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR MUSIC)

MARTIN: Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman, they are the co-founders of Choir! Choir! Choir! Thanks, you guys.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

ADILMAN: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST CHRISTMAS?")

CHOIR!: (Singing) Last Christmas, I gave you my heart. But the very next day you gave it away. This...

MARTIN: If you want to hear more music from Choir! Choir! Choir!, Go to our website nprmusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST CHRISTMAS?")

CHOIR!: (Singing) Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, gave you my heart. The very next day you gave it away, gave it away... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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