Big Soul Project aims to show one voice really can make a difference

Submitted by Cynthia Cee, member of the Big Soul Project

We’ve heard of young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg who began protesting for more action from her government on climate change. Is she a unique case? Can anyone foster change?

The members of the Big Soul Project (BSP), Ottawa’s largest community choir with between 130 to 150 members, think so.

“You never know when one voice will say something that will change you”, said Madeleine Pouliot, assistant choir director and Kitchissippi resident. Her former life partner suggested she join Big Soul and the rest is history. “It keeps me sane,” she added. “The music is so uplifting. It changes your mood.”

The Big Soul Project performs at last year’s annual Christimas concert.
The Big Soul Project performs at last year’s annual Christimas concert. Photo by jake Morrison

The Big Soul Project community choir is a voice of a different tune.

“Our choir raises money to help other charities raise money,” said Cheryl Coull, another choir member from Kitchissippi.

BSP’s concert performances offer publicity and provides a fundraising vehicle for other, smaller charities.

“Last year we raised about $10,000 for the Tanzania Education and Micro-Business Opportunity (Tembo), about $6,000 for Out of the Cold, and about $5,500 for the Ottawa Food Bank (which an anonymous donor then doubled), giving a total of about $27,000,” said Julek Meissner, marketing and publicity coordinator for BSP.

“Roxanne Goodman, BSP’s choir director, encourages and inspires us all,” said Coull.

Under Goodman’s direction, the choir sings songs with roots in R&B, gospel, soul, rock and motown. Their message is encouraging, uplifting and inclusive as they share songs of hope, love and peace.

Their sold-out shows often get people up on their feet, dancing.

“Every time we perform, somebody has come up and shared how they were moved, how we made them feel better, even if just for a moment. That’s what we try to do,” Pouliot said. “We’re one voice with 130 parts.”

Coull became a voice for change right in her neighbourhood when she watched the Syrian crisis unfold on the news five years ago. She attended a meeting hosted by Jeff Leiper on how communities could get involved. She learned about a government immigration program that enabled groups of Canadians to sponsor individuals or families in need. Coull invited a multi-age mix of friends, family and co-workers to a party in her home, with the intention of creating her own group.

They raised money, sponsored two medical students from the Middle East and supported them for one year.

“We help with the extras in terms of medical and dental care that aren’t provided by the government,” said Coull.

Closer to home, Coull has held clothing swap parties to raise money for local causes such as the Parkdale Food Bank. She invited women into her home to socialize and exchange fashions with each other, with the remaining clothing being distributed to different charities. The business attire is donated to Dress For Success and Suits Me, helping underprivileged women in Ottawa to re-enter the work force. Other items go to St. Vincent de Paul’s and the Salvation Army thrift stores.

“You’ve heard of the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle,” Coull added. “We recycle, save money and raise money. It’s a party for family and friends, a good social event for a good cause.”

Big Soul Project’s annual Christmas concert is being held on Saturday, December 7 at the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre or CDCC (formerly Dominion Chalmers United Church) at the corner of O’Connor and Cooper streets.

“This is the only time we raise money to subsidize our efforts to support other charities throughout the rest of the year,” Coull said.

Can one voice really make a difference? I think so. If people can’t sing or start a cause of their own, they can add their support by coming to the concert.

Performance time is at 7:30 p.m. The theme is “The Power of One Voice”. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

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