Spirit's Call
 Spirit's Call Choir - Article in Winnipeg Free Press - February 3, 2004
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I Traded My Shower Cap for a Choir Uniform

The View From Here

by Heather Emberley

IT was a huge step to come clean, all in the name of journalistic research.

As someone who sang only in the shower and mouthed the words in public to O Canada, I truly believed singing a few bars meant the soapy kind. I even bought a plastic songbook at a garage sale called Shower Songs, thinking I'd never been steamed up enough to venture vocally from behind the curtained veil of anonymity.

All that changed when I wrote about a new choir in Winnipeg created for those who thought or were told they could not sing.

Margaret Tobin of the University of Manitoba Counselling Centre and founder of Spirit's Call Choir invited and challenged me to do some primary research at their next practice.

I have interviewed people in gang territory without blinking an eye, but there was no way I was going to a choir practice without taking two dear friends along for backup.

It may be called "practice," but it really is a life-enriching experience in community building, in risk-taking in a safe group, knowing oneself through song and in making a joyous noise.

It is about supporting global harmony, encouraging fellow singers and having fun.

There are no auditions, you are welcomed the way you are. I now have a new view on what music means to the soul.

One short year after that fateful sing-along we performed a sold-out concert, and Juno award-winning songwriter James Keelaghan was OUR guest soloist. This spring we have an opportunity to sing on the same stage with Susan Aglukark. As altos, my friends and I have come to know some terrific sopranos, bass and tenors thanks to this tuneful adventure. Our Nov. 30 concert raised $4,742 for the North End Sponsorship Team in support of refugee families. And they want us to do an encore!

I will always remember the puzzled looks from my husband and sons the first time I told them I was going to a choir practice. "You?" they gasped in unison.

They are singing a different tune after hearing the choir's "gig" as we affectionately call our engagements. My niece at the professional level in opera, a mother-in-law who was with the Philharmonic and sisters-in-law who are asked to sing at weddings and a barbershop brother-in-law now have a comrade of note.

I've traded my shower cap for the choir uniform of white top and black pants.

We sing four-part harmony and you don't need to know how to read music because choir director Lyle Eide is a master teacher.

Under his direction, we have performed songs by Connie Kaldor, gospel songs, African freedom songs, Latin and Sufi chants and show stoppers Providence Ferry and Neil Sedaka's, Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do. The 60-member choir has harmonica, piano, guitar and the most amazing drummer who gets everyone up and "singing in the name of peace."

I'm putting that shower songbook in a garage sale with a copy of the choir brochure inside. If you can't sing (or if you can) the choir has openings. Practices are every second Sunday afternoon. For more info, see: www.spiritscall.com or call 488-0078.

Heather Emberley, a Winnipeg writer and Editor of the Manitoba Journal of Counselling, has cut her water bills drastically since joining Spirit's Call Choir.

The View From Here is open to anyone who wants to tell us a story. E-mail your first-person submissions -- no longer than 800 words, please -- to theview@freepress.mb.ca. Due to the volume of submissions, we will only respond to those chosen for publication.

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