Did you know that Ottawa is home to dozens of choirs? Not only church choirs, but new and established groups performing contemporary and Canadian music too.
We recently caught up with the Capital Chamber Choir to learn about our city’s thriving choral scene, and to get advice for where to go when you’re ready to get your sing on.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Apt613: What’s the choral scene like in Ottawa?
Amy Desrosiers, Choir Manager: It’s incredible. You have non-audition choirs, community choirs, professional choirs, church choirs, and even choirs within organizations. For example, the Telfer School of Management. A bunch of colleagues at the University of Ottawa will just get together, and they’ll sing at parties, just for fun!
Jamie Loback, Artistic Director: It’s vibrant. Like Amy said, there are over 80 choirs… church choirs, youth choirs, children’s choirs, amateur and adult choirs, community choirs… I would say it’s vibrant, and I think there’s plenty of choral music in Ottawa. It’s a rich tradition that has developed here over the years.
What’s it like to be in a choir?
Jamie: We have a very diverse group in terms of our ages, and we have a lot of fun. We also go to the pub after rehearsal, often… People get to know each other, we become very much a family over time. Some of the people in this choir have been here since I started and they’ve become my closest friends.
What do you think about when you think about the future of the choral scene?
Jamie: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. We struggle sometimes trying to find singers… and we don’t have as much music in our school systems, and I think we’re starting to feel that now. Particularly in terms of getting tenors and basses. Fewer guys are singing at younger ages in schools, so that’s part of my work with children’s choirs to try to encourage boys to keep singing through their voice changes. I think there are some challenges ahead, but I think we’re going to embrace those challenges and I think we’ll be able to overcome them.
We don’t have as much music in our school systems, and I think we’re starting to feel that now.
Amy: The community is incredibly supportive of each other. While it’s challenging because everyone has their own rehearsal schedules, it is very enriching to see everyone support each other. It’s a strong support system, and with the use of social media it’s really helping everyone see all the concerts happening in Ottawa. There’s a lot of musical blogs out there, like Classical Ottawa, ARTSFILE, Tales From The Red Chair, and I think it’s absolutely wonderful that they’re exposing this community to the music community in Ottawa overall. The support is definitely growing every year.
So what’s some advice for people who want to get their sing on?
Alison Hamer, Alto: Go out and try to see a few concerts —different choirs will have different repertoires. See which ones you might be personally interested in and make yourself known!
Spencer Cripps, Baritone: And there’s different levels of seriousness. Some are non-audition, some you have to audition for, and some where it’s people getting together in a bar to learn a karaoke song together.
In an Ottawa Minute we’ll explore corners of the city you may have never visited and niche scenes from indie wrestling to fringe theatre, burlesque, the escape room boom, new breweries and offbeat events. So, not “niche” in the sense that niche tastes will be required… but this is probably the kinda stuff you’d have to hear about from a friend. Subscribe to Apt613 on YouTube for new episodes.