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‘Playing with Choir’ gives people a chance to learn and perform pop songs in a fun, relaxing way

Participants practise a song during a Playing with Choir session at The Guild in Charlottetown, earlier this week. Directed by Jill Chandler, the program is in its second year. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Participants practise a song during a Playing with Choir session at The Guild in Charlottetown, earlier this week. Directed by Jill Chandler, the program is in its second year. SUBMITTED PHOTO

With their eyes glued to song sheets, 115 people sing along to “Hooked on a Feeling”, inside the theatre at The Guild in Charlottetown:

“I can’t stop this feeling,

Deep inside of me

Girl, you just don’t realize what you do to me

When you hold me, in your arms so tight

You let me know everything’s all right.

I’m hooked on a feeling

I’m high on believing

That you’re in love with me.”

As soon as everyone has the basic tune down, the fun begins.

“It will be interesting to see how we make out with this song. It’s straight forward, but I’m adding a few surprises,” says choir director Jill Chandler.

She takes a minute to introduce back-up guitarist Daniel Strzelewicz before breaking the group into sections – melody, harmony one and harmony two, singing the parts with each subgroup until she hears their voices rising confidently above her own.

Within minutes, this motivation wizard has drawn the best from the women and men standing in front of her.

And, by the time the break arrives, everyone is singing in three-part harmony.

“We’ll try it a few more times, then we’ll ask Daniel to drop out and we’ll hear the beautiful harmonies of the song.”

When Strzelewicz stops playing and the sound of pure voices fill the theatre space, everyone is relaxing and swaying to the music.

It’s just a regular night out with Playing with Choir.

The group started last year when Emma Fugate, Kirstin Lund and Chandler created an opportunity for adults, 19 and over, to come together once a week to learn two- and three-part harmonies in popular songs.

The organizers were inspired by scientific literature they had read – that singing in a group has significant benefits – as well as an article in “Time” magazine by Stacy Horn that states: “Singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.”

Since then they’ve tackled everything from “Brown Eyed Girl” to “Lean on Me” to more complex pieces like “Hallelujah”.

For Chandler, it’s about helping others rediscover the joy of singing.

“When we were younger, sometimes we got the idea in our heads that we couldn’t sing. But in this welcoming environment, with low expectations, people begin to feel very relaxed and that’s when the magic happens.”

Marlene Andrews says this kind of environment makes it her favourite part of the week.

“I look forward to this. It’s fun to come and sing and then when you get home you listen to the music again when you see the video on YouTube,” says the Rustico resident who is attending her first semester.

Marva Sweeney-Nixon says it’s a complete break from her day job.

“I’m a scientist, and this is so artistic, creative and carefree. There isn’t any pressure because we don’t have to perform. You just show up, get a piece of music and you sing,” says the UPEI biology professor, who is back for her second semester.

And by the end of every evening Sweeny-Nixon is feeling relaxed.

“I leave feeling better than (when) I came. It’s really fun to work with Jill. You get to hear about her life. I also love learning the harmony.”

And harmony is something that continues to grow within the group.

After the break, there’s positive feedback from the director.

“When I hear people practising their parts in little groups it warms my heart,” Chandler says.

 

Fast facts

What: Playing with Choir is an opportunity to learn simple three-part harmonies for popular songs and belt them out for the simple joy of singing.

When: Winter term starts Jan. 16. Registration should be open in the next week or so. For more information, go to the Playing With Choir Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Playing-With-Choir-634396206734708.

Video: To watch “Hooked on a Feeling”, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STL_1rpeqBA&feature=youtu.be.

sally.cole@theguardian.pe.ca

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