613 Casual Choir gives voice to all

By Denise Deby –

Patrons filled the front section and mezzanine of the Clocktower Brew Pub in Westboro on March 3, and they weren’t there just to meet up with friends. They sang, too, giving a spirited rendition of Lorde’s “Royals,” as well as songs by Queen and The Police, all in three-part harmony.

 613 Casual Choir organizers Pam Kapoor (left), Andrea Stokes (centre) and Rob Cosh (right) work hard but have fun. “This is the best thing i’ve ever done,” says Cosh. Photo by Denise Deby.
613 Casual Choir organizers Pam Kapoor (left), Andrea Stokes (centre) and Rob Cosh (right) work hard but have fun. “This is the best thing i’ve ever done,” says Cosh. Photo by Denise Deby.

It was the third session of the 613 Casual Choir, a new group that invites people of all singing abilities to get together at local night spots. Participants don’t need to audition or commit to rehearsals; they just need to want to sing.

Hintonburg-based visual artist, Andrea Stokes, launched the 613 Casual Choir after hearing about Choir! Choir! Choir!, an informal group that sings at various venues in Toronto.

“I was so inspired by this idea of just coming out to sing—it just seemed so democratic and joyful,” says Stokes. “It seemed like such a simple thing to get off the ground.”

Stokes invited Pam Kapoor, an Ottawa singer and writer, and Rob Cosh, a local musician and audio producer, to handle the music side. They work out the songs before rehearsals. On choir nights, Kapoor uses her music skills, energy and sense of humour to lead the crowd in learning their parts. The multi-talented Cosh provides guitar accompaniment, using his guitar as percussion as well.

Everyone gets a copy of the lyrics, but no music-reading ability is required. Costumes and props are welcome. For the evening’s “Royals” theme, a few people wore tiaras, and one came dressed as the “King,” Elvis. In exchange for two or three hours of singing, attendees each pay two dollars, which goes toward the choir’s expenses. People can still come to the venue even if they don’t want to sing.

So far the 613 Casual Choir’s popularity has exceeded organizers’ expectations. More than 100 people came out on March 3, while 200 people showed up to the choir’s launch at the Clocktower on February 3, and 150 to a February 18 session at the Carleton Tavern. On Facebook, the group has more than 500 members.

“Word got out and people were incredibly excited to come and sing,” says Stokes, adding that she’s met a lot of people through the choir. “[They say] they love it; they can’t wait until it happens again.”

That enthusiasm translates into an impressive sound. “We’ve been asked to do some gigs… like pop-up singing events,” comments Stokes.

Nathalie Valois of Hintonburg and Angelina Munaretto of Westboro were first-time Casual Choir-goers on March 3. Valois had heard about the choir, but she didn’t tell Munaretto about it until they arrived. Both were impressed.

“It’s amazing to see the energy,” says Valois. “It’s a fantastic way to get the community out and just have fun.”

The 613 Casual Choir plans to meet twice a month, with the first Monday of every month at the Clocktower Brew Pub, 418 Richmond Road, and mid-month sessions at other venues.

More information about the choir is available on their Facebook page.

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