By Chandra Kavanagh
Once a week for the past 5 years the Stella Burry Inclusion Choir has been getting together to sing, practice and perform. The 40-member, non-audition choir is made up of staff participants and volunteers in Stella Burry programs. The inclusion choir performed to a rapt audience at this year’s Festival 500 celebration in the D. F Cook recital hall.
“I have heard of the D.F. Cook Recital hall since I was young as have many members of the choir. It was a real thrill to perform there.”
- Organizer Rob Mclennen
This is not the first time the Stella Burry Inclusion Choir has raised the roof: they sang for Prince Charles on his royal visit in 2009. They have also performed at conferences, political events and fundraisers. This is a choir with a message, so they tend to perform at events that promote issues close to the hearts of the participants. Homelessness and affordable housing are important issues for the people in the choir and one of their most requested songs is “if I had a grant” - is a song, adapted from Pete Seeger’s “If I had a hammer. The lyrics were written by members of the Inclusion Choir and highlight the importance of affordable housing.
The original aim of the choir was to create a space for people who don’t have access to other choirs to express themselves through song. The auxiliary benefits that have grown from the project since its inception have surprised both the choir members and organizers.
“You could watch as [choir members] became more confident. People would literally take up more space. It’s not uncommon to see people using the benefits of choir such as increased confidence to help in other aspects of life such as education and employment.”
- Rob Mclennen
The choir has also created a supportive community that allows Stella Burry participants and staff to come together striving for a common goal, to give the best performance they can. There is also much to be said for the empowerment associated with sharing their messages of social justice with audiences through performance. People in the choir find a place where their voices are heard and acknowledged through the appreciation and applause of their audiences as people are often moved by the message and performance of this enthusiastic community choir.
For more information about the Stella Burry Inclusion Choir visit their website at: http://www.stellaburry.ca/real-work/community-building/inclusion-choir/
Or their Facebook page: