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FEATURE | Toronto Loves To Sing: The Rise Of Choir! Choir! Choir! And Acquired Taste

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Choir! Choir! Choir! performs at Lee Palace, 2014 (Photo: Joseph Fuda)
Choir! Choir! Choir! performs at Lee Palace, 2014 (Photo: Joseph Fuda)

What do Toronto-based string players, pianists and woodwind players do on their off days? While some enjoy travelling, playing video games, or even writing for Musical Toronto, others find their solace in the dulcet sounds of Palestrina. And I don’t mean listening to Palestrina; I mean singing him.

Acquired Taste, an amateur choir for professional instrumentalists in Toronto, was started in 2017 by Emily Rho and Rory McLeod, the creators of Pocket Concerts, an acclaimed chamber music series where chamber music concerts take place in peoples’ homes. As described on their website, Acquired Taste’s aim is, “to create an environment where highly trained musicians can explore their love of music in a new way, rediscovering the ‘amateur musician’ mindset in a judgement-free environment.”

Since starting in early 2017, Acquired Taste has grown into a choir of more than twenty members. And the sounds posted as previews of their June 4th concert on their website certainly demonstrate more than an amateur musician’s mindset, with blend, musicality and discipline to burn.

Professional musicians aside, something is in the air with choir-culture in Toronto. Toronto’s amateur pick-up choir Choir! Choir! Choir! has gained international fame with its youtube-sensation videos of collaborations with Patti Smith, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen tributes, and performances at the Toronto International Film Festival, Art Gallery of Ontario and the Juno Awards.

Choir! Choir! Choir!, the brainchild of Toronto’s Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman, meets once a week at Clinton’s Tavern. Since their creation in 2011, thousands of Torontonians have joined Goldman and Adilman in song. And while their concerts boast an undeniably good time for a range of demographics, they also possess a philanthropic aim. In the past couple of years, the pickup group has raised money to bring two Syrian Refugee families to Canada, and the choir has donated thousands of dollars to over twenty-five charities.

Acquired Taste, with its undeniably different vibe from Choir! Choir! Choir! (think less Joni Mitchell, more Brahms), will also donate proceeds from its June 4th concert to the Out of the Cold program.

So what is it with choirs and the goodwill they inspire?

In 2013, the Telegraph newspaper reported that choir-singing boosts one’s mental health, yielding more psychological benefits than playing sports or singing solo.

The two pickup choirs started by Rho and McLeod and Goldman and Adilman certainly demonstrate these psychological benefits. Don’t believe me? Go and see for yourself.

Acquired Taste performs Sunday, June 4th at 7:30 p.m. at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Tickets can be bought at www.pocketconcerts.ca. Those interested in joining can contact Rory McLeod at rory@pocketconcerts.ca.

Choir! Choir! Choir! holds two drop-in sessions a week at Clinton’s Tavern. More information can be found on their website www.choirchoirchoir.com or their Facebook group. Their next show is at Toronto’s Masonic Temple on June 25th.

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Sara Schabas
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Sara Schabas

Sara Schabas is a soprano and writer born and bred in the heart of Toronto’s musical community. When she’s not singing opera, you can find her covering Carole King on the ukulele, biking through the Annex and advocating the merits of Puccini.
Sara Schabas
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