A favorite piece of repertoire & why
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel, because the meaning and sentiment mean so much to these dear seniors who have been alive a long time and have collectively seen and experienced more than I can describe. They have decided to sing this piece as though they were speaking directly to troubled youth, letting them know that no matter the storm, there is always a way through with love and kindness.
Choir Name: Cambridge Seniors’ Choir
Location: Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
Number of singers: 68
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A challenging performance and how we faced it:
We were once asked to perform at a retirement/nursing home where there were many people with varying degrees of dementia. We weren’t sure how best to perform for them. So we put together two medley’s of songs from the 50s that we thought they would all remember. The result was amazing. The audience was largely unresponsive until we began to sing our medleys.
They brightened right up. Many who had been motionless began moving to the beat. I didn’t see this of course, because I was directing. But my choir could see it happening and told me about it afterward. I think that might be the time we all realized how important is the work that we do. It was awesome. We left that home grateful to have been singing there.
Favourite Inspirational Quote:
“Ah music…a magic beyond all we do here!” (Dumbledore – The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling)
What is something you do in rehearsals that surprises new members?
New members seem to be surprised at how much regard we have for each other. We celebrate all of the singers and discourage any kind of disparagement. There is a sweetness that permeates rehearsal, as well as a little stand up comedy – we want people to sing from their hearts than be absolutely note perfect.
A turning point in the life of your choir?
We have been plugging along for many years, singing two big concerts per year and at least a dozen at local retirement homes. Last year, we were asked to sing at a concert put on by a local women’s choir. By all reports, people were not sure about us, whether we would be good enough. It was wonderful because we received a standing ovation. And now we seem to be in more demand! We’ve even had to decline a couple of invitations. And that’s something we don’t like to do!
How does your choir bond as a group?
We have annual Christmas and June get togethers where we celebrate each other’s talents in songs and skits. More often, bonding takes place in rehearsals. Every rehearsal includes a 20 minute social break with refreshments. And, if any one ever needs a ride to rehearsal or to a performance, everyone comes together to make it happen!
Does it also goes deeper than that?
This is a group where everyone looks out for everyone else. One of our members recently lost her husband to Alzheimer’s Disease, and she wanted the choir to sing at his funeral. Everyone who could have showed up, did, and sang for her in a time of great need. These things are not unusual for the Cambridge Seniors’ Choir. They don’t hesitate to support each other in whatever they can do.
What was a very special performance and what made it special?
This last Christmas, the choir learned “One Day” by Matisyahu. It was performed with a drummer and that raised the performance to a whole other level. What made it special is that it was sung with the youth of Cambridge Glee and it involved the audience. Unable to sing the Hebrew and Arabic language, the choir substituted French (Canada is French/English bilingual).
How did it feel for you?
The sentiment of the song – no more violence, no more hatred, living together in peace, and the many voices singing, and the instruments, the wonderful rhythm, and the audience joining in – all of it filled the theatre with love. It felt transpersonal -we all felt as one. What could be more appropriate in such a special time of year?!
An emotional moment you had in a performance?
We are often asked to perform at the Royal Canadian Legion to celebrate Canada Day or Warriors’ Day. Twice we have been asked to sing “Hymn to the Fallen” by John Williams (featured in the motion picture Saving Private Ryan). Each time, the choir had to work to maintain their voices, and not break down. And each time, the audiences – high school young people and then a mixture of many ages – were deeply moved.
Do you also tackle contemporary issues?
One other piece that we sing at military occasions is “Hometown Battlefield” by J.P. Cormier. Mr. Cormier gave us permission to harmonize and to perform it. We do it simply, with guitar and piano. A soloist sings the whole piece and the choir harmonize the choruses. The piece tells the story of how many soldiers deal with PTSD, long after their tours are over. Each time I direct the choir, I feel goosebumps. I don’t see the audiences, but the choir does, and I can see their reaction. The soldiers always cry. Every time. It is moving beyond belief. So many of them have spoken to me afterwards. They all have stories and they are so grateful to hear the piece.
An emotional moment in rehearsal?
Several years ago, we were asked to sing “In Flanders Fields” re-imagined and written by a local composers. It was exceedingly difficult. We recorded the six parts and learned it carefully. We worked hard to make it musical and meaningful. When the composer showed up at a rehearsal, she was very emotional after she heard the song. Her emotion made the entire choir feel wonderful.
A funny moment in rehearsal
These moments happen all the time! It’s hard to isolate one moment. The director’s philosophy is that rehearsals should be as much fun (or more!) as are the performances. There is always a great deal of laughter at our rehearsals.
A juicy fact about a composer/arranger you love to tell your choir members.
I tell them that Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Weber share a birthday and that the stars must have been aligned to create “control-freak” composers that day since they both carefully write so that you have no doubt at all how they want a piece performed!