Barbara Bailey is a Toronto graphic designer who loves Bollywood dancing and singing in a choir. The latter diversion happens to involve Choir! Choir! Choir!, the local phenomenon lauded nationally and internationally for its exuberant approach to crooning with a crowd, in harmony.
The group began in 2011 as a community gathering of people who just wanted to sing. Since then, as their website says, they have performed live with Patti Smith at the Art Gallery of Ontario; Tegan and Sara on the Juno Awards; at TEDx Toronto 2014; and at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival’s closing gala at Roy Thompson Hall. Still, they stick to their roots, meeting twice weekly in the back room at Clinton’s Tavern, on Bloor Street, and remain “open to anyone who likes to sing new arrangements of pop songs.”
The founders are Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman (known as DaBu to their acolytes) and, according to Barbara, their energy and enthusiasm are key to the group’s success. She says, “Their casual banter about life, work and the world creates a relaxed environment.” Having a drink during choir practice may help, too.
Daveed and Nobu’s passion for music is very evident at rehearsals and performances. “Some people may be uncomfortable with DaBu’s swearing because they don’t expect it at a choir, but I’m fine with it,” Barbara notes. To wit, here’s an excerpt from DaBu’s code of conduct for choir members:
“1. Don’t fucking hit on anyone if they’re clearly not into it.
2. Don’t fucking say stupid shit to people.
3. If you are singing the wrong fucking part, listen, ask for help, and start singing the right fucking part.
4. If you hear someone singing the wrong fucking part, don’t be a jerk and treat anyone like shit. Be fucking nice about it. In other words refer to #2.”
Barbara’s interest in the group was piqued last summer when a friend told her about the drop-in, no-audition-necessary choir. She says, “I work from home and spend all day on the computer working on design, so getting out and doing something completely different is very appealing – that’s why I also like Bollywood dancing.” She’s also heard that learning and singing new songs helps stave off Alzheimer’s, a disease that has affected her family. DaBu discourage people from sending them links to articles about the health benefits of singing. Still, Barbara believes, and feels it.
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Aside from these more cerebral benefits, Barbara recalls one particular session when she first joined that won her over completely. “It was in the summer and we had spent a couple of hours working on our song, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. It was a warm evening and getting incredibly hot inside. DaBu suggested we take it outside so out we went to Bloor Street! There were over 100 of us and we finished the session out there with people gathering to listen. It was exhilarating, and much cooler.”
The whole thing is such a departure for Barbara from her previous choir experience, which she reveals, was in junior high in Ottawa a few decades ago. “The girls were supposed to sing in the choir while the boys did math. I was asked to go with the boys to do math. I don’t remember how that was decided, but it seemed my singing was not welcome.”
There are no auditions for Choir! Choir! Choir! and anyone can join. The group is divided into sections – highs, mids and lows – and people figure out where they belong. There is a charge of $5 at the door for each session for lyric sheets. You drop in when you can. Members are kept up to date on songs and other happenings through email and a Facebook page.
The songs favoured by the group are popular and indie ones from the 60s to the present. The Supremes, the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel are mixed in with Adele, Justin Bieber and, more recently, David Bowie. They have participated in CBC Radio’s annual fundraiser for local food banks – Sounds of the Season – as well as organizing a fundraiser themselves – C!C!C! Sings for Syria – to sponsor a refugee family.
“We’re not just gathering to sing, “ says Barbara. “DaBu have created a real community. But most of all, it’s a whole lot of fun!”
– Miria Ioannou
Photos by Schuster Gindin
Go Barbara Bailey! And the clip at the end, singing David Bowie at the AGO is fabulous.
Excellent! I especially enjoyed the Choir article, it looks like a lot of fun!
Kathleen Howes, Toronto