Spirit's Call
 Spirit's Call Choir - Article in Winnipeg Free Press - January 29, 2003
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MAGICAL Melodic Mix

Spirit's Call Choir sings for relaxed joy of expression, not for perfection

by Carolin & friends/Carolin Vesely

"Music is an outburst of the soul" -- Frederick Deluis, English composer

AS a child, Can Da' Ce (pronounced can-Da-see) Cross sang wherever she went. Then someone told her she shouldn't -- at least not within earshot of others. So she spent years humming and whistling instead. Today, Cross once again is singing her heart out.

The Winnipeg woman found her voice -- she actually sings tenor and bass -- in the Spirit's Call Choir, an eclectic, non-audition community choir where you are in perfect harmony if you sing from the heart.

You are considered a member after just one practice. Show up when you feel like it. Bring a friend. If you have stage fright, feel free to opt out of the "gigs."

And rest assured that regardless of whether you believe -- or, like Cross, were told -- that you can't carry a tune in a bucket, you will never, ever be asked to mouth the words.

"Our motto is sing, not for perfection, sing for joy," says Catherine Côté, a founding member and the choir's resident "PR goddess."

It's a frigid Sunday afternoon and people are filing into the basement of the University Women's Club, the choir's posh Westgate headquarters, for one of their twice-monthly practices. About half of the 65 members on the Spirit's Call roster have turned out. They pick up copies of the Latin hymn, African spiritual and Muslim prayer they'll be singing today.

Singing, or as Spirit's Call founder Margaret Tobin more eloquently puts it, "experiencing the deep joy and transformation that can come from spontaneous vocal expression."

Spontaneous it may be, but the choir does its "vocal expression" in rich, four-part harmony. Quite nicely, too.

After all, they have seasoned professional Lyle Eide as choral director.

In addition to stifled shower-singers rediscovering their pipes, there also are accomplished vocalists in this melodic mix.

But the important thing, Côté says, is that everyone is tuned to the same transformational vision. "It's about community, about a vibe that happens," she says.

Gene Degen, who sings bass, grew up in a musical family and has been playing hobby guitar for years, but says he wanted a more social setting in which to express himself musically.

"There's something really magical about being in the middle of a group creating a harmony," Degen says.

That magical Spirit's Call vibe began with a chant. And a joke.

In November 2000, Tobin, social worker and U of M associate professor, was holding an Explorations of the Self workshop with Dorothy Becker and had participants chant a Sanskrit mantra to warm up for another activity.

According to Tobin, people were amazed at their own sound, and one woman jokingly said, "We should form a choir. Ha-ha."

Tobin wasn't laughing. She gathered a dozen people in her living room that Christmas. "We sang to CDs at the beginning," Tobin recalls.

From those humble beginnings, Spirit's Call has grown to a performance-ready choir that has taken its four-part harmony on the road -- to "gigs" such as an Amnesty International fund-raiser and solstice celebrations.

For tenor and guitarist Clark Kenyon, the camaraderie and comfort he feels in the room are reason enough to forego other activities on this, or any given Sunday. "I'd rather be here than watching the Super Bowl," Kenyon said.

On Feb. 15 and 16, the choir will sponsor a Sing For Your Life workshop with Shivon Robinsong, former Winnipegger and founder/director of Victoria's 300-member Gettin' Higher Choir -- a group of former "non-singers" who have recorded several CDs.

For more information about Spirit's Call Choir, or the upcoming workshop, check the Web at www.spiritscall.com.

For MEDIA INQUIRIES about Spirit's Call Choir contact
Heather Emberley at 204-284-7137 or emberley@mts.net.
Heather is our new Public Relations contact as of September 2004.

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