When Choir! Choir! Choir! held its first public singalong in February of 2011, the venue was a modest real estate office in downtown Toronto. This get-together, sparked by Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman, was fashioned as an interactive pop-up glee club and included a little over a dozen people. During this impromptu performance, something unexpected happened. “We heard something we hadn’t heard before,” Goldman says. “That sound you get when happiness begins to multiply right in front of you.” This ecstatic reaction inspired the pair to replicate the event on a biweekly basis.
Fast forward eight years, and the live singalongs and compositions that Choir! Choir! Choir! continue to create have ballooned in popularity. They attract thousands of voices and a long list of famous figures from the pop and rock world. Patti Smith, Tegan and Sarah, Rufus Wainwright and Rick Astley have all attended events and supported Adilman and Goldman’s creative endeavors.
One of the duo’s biggest fans, David Byrne, was so moved by performing a cover of David Bowie’s Heroes with Choir! Choir! Choir! in the Ford Foundation lobby of the Public Theater in New York City that he went online to rave about the moment. “There is a transcendent feeling in being subsumed and surrendering to a group. This applies to sports, military drills, dancing … and group singing,” Byrne said in a statement. “One becomes a part of something larger than oneself, and something in our makeup rewards us when that happens. We cling to our individuality, but we experience true ecstasy when we give it up. So, the reward experience is part of the show.”
When they first started out, the Choir! Choir! Choir! formula struck a nerve with locals seeking comfort, community and creativity. “People often come alone to our events,” Goldman says. “They often leave finding themselves and a few friends.” It didn’t take long after the pair launched its first event that Choir! Choir! Choir! evolved from being known as one of Toronto’s quirkiest best kept secrets to a global and viral sensation.
Their YouTube videos include exuberant renditions of ‘80s pop hits such as Wham’s Last Christmas, Erasure’s A Little Respect and Bryan Adams’s Summer of ‘69. The choir’s clickable covers got the duo invited to reproduce their crowd-fuelled shows in musical epicenters such as Radio City Music Hall, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Carnegie Hall. To date, Choir! Choir! Choir! has amassed nearly 40-million views and averages almost a million views per month.
“As soon as the rest of the world outside of Toronto had a chance to hear what we heard from our audiences, everything exploded,” Adilman says. “Anyone could see that the joy in these strangers singing together was palpable and contagious, and we started getting regulars and a fan base.”
It wasn’t long before Adilman and Goldman started seeing a group of hardcore “choir heads,” or return attendees, who saw Choir! Choir! Choir! as a place to help them escape from or rebuild their lives. Participants going through emotional trauma, work stress or challenging obstacles started to follow Adilman and Goldman’s joyful crew to help belt their blues away.
That combination of belonging and expressing oneself with others is something that social worker, psychotherapist and certified sound-therapy practitioner Laura Notton, says is missing in many of us who choose to spend most of our days on phones and touch screens. “People connect instantly and often create community when they discover tone and voice together,” explains Notton, who has devoted more than 19 years to researching and practicing sound healing and leads communal sound baths with Nicole Manes, a singer and fellow sound-therapy practitioner.
“We’ve seen a lot of transformation and growth,” says Goldman of the eight years that Choir! Choir! Choir! has been active. “People who have lost a partner and won’t leave the house use it to help them ingratiate back into society. Some folks who have gone through bad breakups or divorces ended up becoming leaders in their own groups and host musical events in their own home because of the positive space it makes,” he says. “We are starting to get used to hearing things like, ‘I’ve never felt like I belonged to anything before until tonight’ on any given night.”
Today, admission varies from $5 for a local drop-in event to $40 when raising voices for a cause, such as the Barenaked Ladies Singalong which benefits Covenant House and at-risk youth, and is taking place at Toronto’s Mod Club on Nov. 25. Invitations are open to any and all singers at every skill level, including off-key and imperfect pitchers. The evening is one of many North American tour stops which began in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 17 and ends in Brampton, Ont., on Feb. 21.
Visit https://choirchoirchoir.com/ for current tour dates.