A Toronto Choir Club Member’s Memoirs

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Melissa Lauren

A few weeks ago, we put out a request for members of our choir clubs in Toronto, Hamilton, and Niagara to tell us about their experiences so far. Here is the first of our guest blogs, this one coming to you from our Choir Club Toronto Member, Christine MacLean. You can join Christine and many others each week at Kimbourne Park United Church in Toronto on Tuesday Nights from 6:30-8:00 PM.

I recently found myself with a bit more time in my summer schedule and wondered how to fill it.  I wanted to do something creative and collaborative and musical.  As if kismet a post came up on my Facebook feed about a new drop in choir in my area called Choir Nation.  Singing in a choir wasn’t new territory to me I have sung in choirs in Toronto for a number of years but never a “rock choir”.  I arrived for the first rehearsal not sure what to expect.  There were a dozen or so of men and women with a wide variety of musical experience.

Melissa Lauren a professional singer and choir conductor got things off to a quick start, music or lyric sheets were handed out.  I looked at the piece and though “no way are we learning this in an evening”.  Somehow she was able to quickly access the voices in the choir and within minutes we were singing within a half an hour in harmony. By the end of the evening we had learned the full song I was astonished and amazed with how fantastic we sounded. Singing as a group we came together so quickly to pursue the harmony with the other choir members that evening. 

 I came back for a second, third and fourth rehearsal; some new people came some returning from the week before.  Another song was handed out.  Once again Melissa had the group singing in full harmony with 30 minutes at the end of one rehearsal a song worthy of recording and posting on Facebook. 

 As the summer ebbed and flowed so did the size of the group that gathered for rehearsal each week the people who came to participate each week rose to the occasion and pulled off a song in  two or sometimes three part harmony the by the end of the session.  

 Everyone was so welcoming each week but the best part was everyone was welcome no matter the musical experience it was about coming together each week to sing.  The weekly rehearsal was uplifting and fun you know that everyone left feeling great despite how they went in feeling. 

 As the fall arrives I go back to my more formal choirs but I plan to continue to drop into Choir Nation now I have added the Beach Boys, Beatles and the Eagles to my Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn to my musical repertoire. 

Choir Nation Named a Top Way to Celebrate Canada 150

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There’s nothing more Canadian than coming together for a good cause, and that’s just what Choir Nation is doing. Although our Canada 150 Celebration passed on Wed., June 28, the fun and excitement of Choir Nation will continue all summer long and year-round. In fact, Choir Nation is such a unique, rewarding and distinctly Canadian company that it was recently named one of 91 incredible ways to celebrate Canada 150 by Flight Network, Canada’s leading online global travel agency.

Choir Nation is a Canadian owned and operate company that brings friends, families and strangers together through music. Their artists, including David Cuddy and Murray Foster, perform a number of classic songs by Canadian artists, like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. The director teaches the crowd their vocal parts, creating a choir for the artists on stage. Choir Nation can be used as a team-building event for businesses, family bonding experience or even as a fun-filled evening with friends.
What the travel experts at Flight Network found so interesting about Choir Nation is that it is a Canadian-owned company that operates with Canadian employees and Canadian musicians. Six percent of all of the profits made are divided among the Momentum Choir, MusiCounts and Unison Benevolent Fund charities to keep music alive and thriving across this vast country. It’s a company that focuses on putting Canada, its people and its culture first. The Choir Nation Canada 150 Celebration was held at the end of June, but those who are interested in our company’s services can celebrate Canada with us at any time of year.

In honour of the Canada 150 celebrations, we curated a list of our 150 favourite Canadian songs on Spotify. Give it a listen:

I’m With The Band!

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So how exactly does a marketing professor without any experience working in music get involved in Choir Nation? Oh but you must sing right? How long did you sing in choirs for? What instrument do you play? These are the typical questions I have been asked since Choir Nation started meeting with companies and running our weekly choir events.

All of these questions make perfect sense and I realized the fact I love music, have 900 CD’s at home, have written some papers on music, and play the drums in my spare time isn’t really enough. I had to sing and I had to experience what our clients do. I first started by approaching our music director Sarah Jerrom and asking her to arrange some vocal lessons. I have watched every rehearsal and every event with some level of envy wanting to do what they are doing but worrying too much about not sounding great and I thought it was time to try it myself.

I have also struggled with anxiety for over 3 years now and I felt singing might be one way to help with it. Sarah is incredibly encouraging and supportive and has really helped me learn so many technical things while also helping with relaxation techniques that have translated to the classroom.

I also had to get out of my comfort zone and see what it’s like to meet a group of strangers on a Monday night in St Catharines and sing a Beatles, Adele, or Lorde song. I owe Lorde some serious apologies for my butchering of her words. I took part in some performances with the choir at Silversmith Brewing Company. Admittedly, I was really nervous and awkward the first few times but I have gotten a lot more comfortable with it. More recently, we held a great in-store event with Indigo at their Bay and Bloor and without hesitation, I joined the choir and sang with complete strangers who were shopping and stopped by to sing.

I have loved music my whole life and now it goes beyond going to a lot of concerts and owning a lot of albums. Last year, on my son Liam’s first birthday, I kind of mumbled and lip-synched happy birthday because of being self-conscious about how I would sound. I can say with certainty, that is not going to happen ever again.

A lot of people I talk to about our company express similar concerns about sounding awful and say “I can’t sing.” But here is the thing. You can, we all can and we are so happy that so many of you have realized just how great it feels to belt out your favourite song with your colleagues, friends, family and even complete strangers.

Oh, Susanna!

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Status update: Any new music, new releases, are you in the studio, on the road?

I am releasing my new album “A Girl in Teen City” on Friday, May 26. It was released in Europe first, so I have been on tour in the Netherlands and the UK. I’ve also have been producing/directing three videos for the album which has been very, very fun.

What music are you currently listening to?

I have been listening to Andy Shauf, Abigail Lapell and Gregory Alan Isakov. Three amazing songwriters and singers. Story-tellers who set their tales to music.

Who inspires you as a musician? 

Let me think about that…for me when you say musician it makes me think of virtuoso pickers and players. I admire those folks most definitely but I am inspired by songwriters and singers. I think one of my greatest inspirations is Kate Bush who falls into all three categories of musician, singer and songwriter. Plus she is a producer as well. Her voice and musicianship and production sense are deep, whimsical and so emotional. Her storytelling is so captivating. Little vignettes that you can visualize in your mind.

What song(s) do you wish you wrote?

That is a hard one….I don’t really think of wishing I wrote particular songs but I want to write songs that are as powerful as: “Making Pies” by Patty Griffin, “Don’t think Twice, It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan, “Highway Patrolman” by Bruce Springsteen, “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones, “Here in Topeka” By Loretta Lynn

Who would you love to collaborate with?

Neko Case & Joel Plaskett

What made you want to be a part of Choir Nation? Why should companies want to be a part of this?

Singing feels good. Music is healing. When people sing together they bond and they open up. This is hard to do sometimes but so worth it.

Making Moments Happen

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It’s in our slogan, it’s what we offer and we what we want our clients to take away from their experience with us: moments.

Since Choir Nation started holding events at our clients’ offices, music venues and hospital atriums, we have had moments that I will remember and cherish. This is a list of the moments that really stand out for me in the past year or so.

First Ever Choir Nation Rehearsal

During our First Rehearsal for our first annual benefit show, a group of about 15 employees from Chubb Insurance in Toronto were working on their songs with our music director, Alex Samaras . One particular employee, who I think might have been politely coerced by his friend to join the choir, was kind of struggling. Alex calmly walked over and told him to sing “low, middle, high” at a corresponding pitch, and voila, within minutes he could sing in tune. It was a bit magical – someone who couldn’t sing in tune two minutes before was suddenly singing perfectly. Everyone clapped, high-fived and hugged him to celebrate. Right then, I knew we had something great here.

Hey Jude at the Benefit Show

We had a really successful night of music with Katey Gatta kicking off the proceedings, followed by an amazing set by Momentum Choir. Our two company choirs from KPMG Canada and Chubb Insurance really stepped up to the challenge and did a wonderful job singing with Devin Cuddy and Harrow Fair. Our artists also put on incredible sets of music, the silent auction items were huge draws. But then…the moment happened. Momentum, Chubb, and KPMG joined Devin and Miranda in a great rendition of Hey Jude and brought the house down.

The Group Hug at St Catharines Hospital

Through partnerships with a number of hospitals, we launched our Harmonies for Health program that provides our clients with the opportunity to sing three songs of their choice in the lobby of our partner hospitals (including St Catharines for local Niagara clients). CAA Niagara and a group of MBA students from Goodman School of Business trained and rehearsed with Sarah Jerrom for four sessions, and finally the day to sing at the hospital arrived. It was four days before Christmas and spirits were high! Each choir sang their three songs and then we brought both groups together for an encore about a brightly lit reindeer named Rudolph. After the song, two members from CAA came over and gave Sarah a hug. And then more people came over, and then next thing you know, we have 40 people (many of whom were strangers) are hugging each other in a huge circle! #greatmoment

Started as Strangers…

In the last little while, we launched a weekly drop-in choir in Niagara-on-the-Lake run by Sarah Jerrom. In the first week, a woman walked in and said “Hi, I’m Kelly and I don’t know any of you but I wanted to try something new this out that is out of my comfort zone this year.” The group in Niagara has become very close and have bonded over the engaging sessions by Sarah with a lot of teaching and learning taking place. Not only that, but for many of us, we made our live music debut when we headed over to Silversmith Brewing Company and performed the song we learned that night. It has now become somewhat of a tradition with our new friends at Silversmith looking forward to our weekly performance.

Come Together at Community Care

Our most recent moment happened just a week ago at Community Care of St Catharines & Thorold Murray and Sarah led a group of awesome employees through a rendition of the Beatles’ classic Come Together. Murray brought his vintage bass guitar that Sir Paul would be proud of and played the iconic bass line. There was just this look of amazement on the faces of the employees. Sarah and I both forgot to introduce Murray to the crowd because of the cool vibe of the moment. Oops!

We can’t wait to make more of these moments happen with you. Thanks for reading!

Choir Nation Canada 150 Celebration

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Choir Nation Canada 150 Celebration at Warehouse features an opening set by Niagara’s Momentum Choir followed by a medley of Canadian classic songs. The entire crowd will perform as a choir backing Devin Cuddy and our music director Sarah Jerrom as we make our way through hits by bands such as Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Feist, Joni Mitchell and many more.

10 lucky ticket holders will win a meet and greet before the show and rehearse with Devin and Sarah in order to perform on stage as Devin’s backing choir for the finale.

Purchase Your Ticket Now!

Artists Performing: Devin Cuddy, Momentum Choir

$5 from each ticket supports Momentum Choir.
Advance Ticket Price: $30
Door Ticket Price $35

Meet the Artist: Sam Cash

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Sam Cash & The Romantic Dogs

The second installment of our artist bio is here! Please have a read and learn more about the amazing Sam Cash.

Status update: Any new music, new releases, are you in the studio, on the road?

We put out my 3rd record “Tongue-In-Cheek Vows” about 6 months about, so we just have got through a decent bout of touring and promo for the record.  I was just up in Banff doing a songwriting residency, so I’m feeling refreshed and looking forward to start writing for a new record.

What music are you currently listening to?

The new Solange, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver, Leonard Cohen, and Joyce Manor.  Lots of great records have been coming out.

Who inspires you as a musician?

Bruce Springsteen is always a good guy to go to for inspiration—in terms of being a songwriter, singer, performer, and guitar player.  I think he’s one of the best lead guitarists around—he doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a guitar player.

Sam Cash at Adelaide Hall

Sam Cash at Adelaide Hall | Toronto

What song(s) do you wish you wrote?

Echo by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Who would you love to collaborate with?

While I was up in Banff I got to collaborate with Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin (Both from Broken Social Scene) as well as Kathleen Edwards—that was a pretty great feeling, to have such amazing talents appreciate the writing you’re doing, and helping you make it better.  I’d be happy if I never collaborated with anyone else after that.

What made you want to be a part of Choir Nation? Why should companies want to be a part of this?

As an artist who performs a lot—it’s always the most fun interacting on and off stage with Non-professional musicians.  I think once everybody finds a comfort zone with one another, there’s a lot of fun that can be had between that interaction.  The life of a touring musician is such a strange isolating world—so that loose human connection is really important.

He has a new album out and three upcoming gigs at the Rivoli in Toronto on November 11th, November 25th and December 9th! You can learn more about Sam here on his website.

Meet The Artist: John Mullane, In-Flight Safety

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In-Flight Safety

Starting this week, Choir Nation is conducting brief interviews with our artist roster. This week’s profile is on John Mullane of In-Flight Safety. I have been lucky to get to know John through my research on the music industry. He has great insight and provided articulate and informed opinion on the many topics I have explored in my research including the challenges and changes in the digital era and how to address these issues going forward. I have really enjoyed our conversations on what the industry will look like in the future and I am a huge fan of In-Flight Safety’s music. You can check out more about them here: http://www.inflightsafety.ca/index.php

Status update on IFS: Any new music, new releases, are you in the studio, on the road etc.

We are diligently working on a 10th year anniversary release of The Coast Is Clear album. The goal is to do a remix and a remaster. We are play a couple shows coming up. And ‘End of Summer” festival in Saint John NB and then we are playing at Nova Scotia Music Week in Truro on November 5. We are not really working on divining any brand new songs right now as I am working on producing some other records. Perhaps in 2017 I will realize that I need to write some new songs for IFS and not just other artists.

What music are you currently listening to?

Frank Ocean, Ria Mae, The Everywheres (Halifax Band), Tegan and Sara, The Go Betweens (80s music from Aussie), Hammock. I also know that Glen is loving the new Radiohead and he is loving the new Operators.

Who inspires you as a musician?

Literally every single musical artist who I listen to. Also many other artists such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Hans Zimmer and Chris Nolan, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mike Birbglia, Maria Bamford. Too many to list. Not Kanye.

What song(s) did you wish you wrote?

I think “I was a fool” by Tegan and Sara is perfect. I also wish I wrote everything by Bry Webb (Constantines).

Who would you love to collaborate with?

I love collaborating with other musicians, other types of artists – visual artists, etc… so in effect I love collaboration. I thrive on it. I have always loved collaborating with Drew Lightfoot on our music videos.

What made you want to be a part of Choir Nation? Why should companies want to be a part of this?

I just love the idea. It demystifies the musical process and allows people to lose themselves in music for a moment. I am always seeking out moments and Choir Nation seeks to make those happen.

The Benefit Show: Breakthrough Performances Make Beautiful Music!

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Choir Nation Benefit Concert

It’s been 3 weeks since we held our first annual benefit show, and I’m still humming and singing the songs performed by our KPMG Canada and Chubb Insurance choirs with Devin Cuddy and Harrow Fair (Miranda Mulholland and Andrew Penner). It was really exciting to see our planning and vision come together! It confirmed to Murray and I that we have a great service to provide both Canadian companies and Canadian artists. Importantly, we raised over $2,000 for our three great charities: Momentum Choir, MusiCounts and Unison Fund.

Some of the personal highlights for me included seeing the members of KPMG, Chubb and Momentum warming up together with our music directors Alex Samaras and Robbie Grunwald. They were all having a great time together, and that continued through our finale, “Hey Jude”, which was a special moment for everyone in the room. It was equally exciting to get to see two of our artists from our roster captivate the room – you should plan on seeing both Devin and Harrow Fair any time you can!

Devin Cuddy

Devin Cuddy

We have begun to post photos of the night and we have some video shot by some of our attendees slowly trickling into our Facebook page. We will be able to post the final video of the night in the next few weeks, so please stay tuned!

Below we have a collection of quotes from choir members, our music directors, members of Momentum Choir and our artists reflecting on the night that was:

Mendelt Hoekstra, Executive Director at Momentum Choir

It was a very meaningful experience to perform at Choir Nation’s first annual benefit show. Momentum Choir is proud to partner with Choir Nation as we have a similar mission – providing an opportunity for people to sing in a professional setting. Choir Nation’s staff were respectful, professional and exceptionally fun. We are very pleased to be affiliated with Choir Nation.

Shabnam Ahmad, KPMG Choir Member

I had an absolutely wonderful time being a part of Choir Nation. I have always loved to sing and haven’t been part of a choir in years, so this was the perfect opportunity for me! I got to work with such passionate musicians and made some great friends along the way. Can’t wait to do this all over again! A huge thanks to Todd & Murray for all their hard work and for bringing Choir Nation to life!

Alex Samaras, Music Director at Choir Nation

What a thrill to see first-time performers rock the stage! Everyone was nervous before the show but the minute they started singing a confidence came over each of them and they realized that all they had to do was trust one another and listen deeply. After we finished the choir was riding that type of high that you can only get from performing live. It was so much fun. Great job everyone!

Miranda Mulholland and Andrew Penner, Harrow Fair

Miranda Mulholland and Andrew Penner, Harrow Fair, performing at the Choir Nation Inaugural Benefit Concert

Miranda Mulholland, Musician

Scientifically, they say singing boosts endorphins and makes you feel happier but there’s something so magical about singing with other people that not only transports the singers but the audience as well.

A big thank you to everyone who helped make the night happen – Jenn Sookdeo, Mary Krause, Jenn Green, Alex and Robbie, our volunteers, our corporate sponsors (too many to list!), Katey Gatta for her opening set, Lula Lounge, Momentum Choir for travelling from Niagara, and especially for KPMG Canada and Chubb Insurance Canada for stepping up to the plate!

Behind-The-Scenes: Rehearsal for the Choir Nation Benefit Concert

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Choir Nation held its first rehearsal in Toronto in preparation for our first annual benefit show on August 16th where they’ll be playing with Devin Cuddy and Miranda Mulholland. We had a group of both nervous and excited singers – some of whom haven’t sung since grade school. The results after one hour with our amazing music director, Alex Samaras, speak for themselves.




Devin Cuddy and Miranda Mulholland

Devin Cuddy and Miranda Mulholland