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Choir! Choir! Choir! is a popular Toronto-based singing group led by creative directors Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman. The group has performed with renowned artists such as Patti Smith, Tegan and Sara, David Byrne, Rick Astley, and Rufus Wainwright, and onstage at New York's Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. Since 2011, they have gathered thousands of people—in living rooms, warehouses, and outdoor spaces—to sing timeless, beloved, and popular songs. Their pop-up concerts, in which the audience are the performers, have become a YouTube sensation.
From October 26 – 28, Daveed and Nobu will be at 1440 Multiversity leading a Choir! Choir! Choir! weekend program. In anticipation of this brand-new format for the creative duo, we sat down with them to talk about what singing with strangers (who quickly become friends) is all about.
1440: Let's talk about what you do. What do you call it?
Daveed: We are the leaders of Choir! Choir! Choir! We get large groups of people to sing together. So, we're a singing event—but you pull back the layers and it's so much more.
We are about creating a safe space for people to come out and be creative, even if they don't think that they're creative.
Choir! Choir! Choir! offers an opportunity for people to connect and make friends maybe for the moment but maybe for their entire lives. It has become a large community of people from all different walks of life. It gives people (including us) the opportunity to meet people they would never meet otherwise under "normal" life circumstances in which we wake up, go to work, take care of family, consume entertainment, and go back to bed.
1440: You are coming to 1440 at the end of October to offer a weekend program. That is new for you, isn't it?
Nobu: Yes! And we're really excited to do it. We've done conference keynotes, breakout sessions, team-building exercises, and hundreds of choir nights where we hand out lyric sheets at the door and get people to sing. But in terms of creating a program around the core ideas of what we do and what we're trying to communicate to people, we have not done that yet.
We're excited to sing outside, dive into conversations about the meaning and impact of music, do some songwriting as a group, and, of course, offer one of our Choir! nights as a public show.
1440: So, what is at the core of what you do and what you're trying to communicate through Choir! Choir! Choir!?
Nobu: Music is such a powerful tool for looking into your past and evoking memory. You can hear a song and remember where you were when you were nine years old and that song was playing and you were driving with your dad, and it will always remind you of that.
Music can conjure so much. You look at people who suffer from dementia and you see videos of them listening to music that they heard 80 years ago and all of a sudden, they can tell you a whole story about where they were in 1935 whereas normally they're unable to communicate.
When you stand in a room with 100 people and you sing Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop," all of a sudden, the memories come. Like "oh that was so popular, that song makes me think of when I was in high school or elementary school or university." The music allows people to open up about where they were and who they were when they first heard it.
The song is almost like a tattoo on your soul.
When you gather people in a room and they celebrate that together, it can coalesce in a really powerful way.
1440: What do you see as the unique value of the Choir! Choir! Choir! weekend at 1440? What do you hope people will take away?
Daveed: For me, the idea of singing is a spark and depending on who you are it sparks something in you and motivates you in a way. It may alter your mood from one of feeling a little bit lower to feeling a little bit higher. It may trigger euphoria. It may also motivate you to be more active in your thinking and your actions.
It can help push you in the direction of where you've wanted to go because it basically gives you energy. I'm interested in using our weekend at 1440 as an opportunity to talk about that with people—to use the spark of singing together to talk about where people want to go and what they want to do. How do we each take this positive energy and turn it into something even more positive?
1440: What else should people be prepared to experience?
Nobu: Humor. We're joking most of the time. That's a key element of our show. If you've never been to a Choir! session, what you don't see is the lengths to which Daveed and I will go with silliness and ridiculousness. We put ourselves so far out there so people will join us. Singing in a group—even a large group—of people can be intimidating. So many of us were taught from a very young age not to sing because there's a professional way of doing it, so if you can't do it right, don't do it at all.
Of course, we want the songs to sound great and we will ride the singers hard to make sure the performance works out, but at the same time—we're trying to create a space where everyone feels welcome.
To learn more about 1440's Choir! Choir! Choir! weekend program, click here.
This interview was conducted by Kate Green Tripp, Managing Editor for 1440 Multiversity.