With 23 already underway and another planned for Smiths Falls this September, Georgette Fry and the Shout Sister! choirs are making a loud, joyous name for themselves across Ontario. Fry started the first in Kingston in 2002, with another two in Brockville and Picton in 2006, and she hasn’t looked back from there.
Nancy Grieg, manager of the choirs, quotes Fry as saying “We all want to let the inner diva out,” and the 1,400 women who now make up the Shout Sister! choirs can attest to that.
Shout Sister! choirs are aimed at women who have been told all their lives they can’t sing (plus all the others who love to sing). They are aimed at women who don’t have an education in music, who don’t read music, who don’t want to audition, but who love to sing.
The choirs are also for women whose “musical limitations may have robbed them of opportunities to sing in a group setting” all their lives. The choirs are open to everyone — all ethnicities, all persuasions, all disabilities, all orientations. There are just two rules: no criticism and be nice.
Already 15 to 20 women have shown interest in the Smiths Falls choir with seven turning up at an information evening in June. Grieg says they’ve never had a choir start and not continue, so while about a dozen-and-a-half are enthusiastic now, it’s better to aim closer to 30 for a beginning. An average size runs between 50 and 60, with a few smaller, and Grieg fields requests daily from all over Ontario to open new choirs. She is confident Smiths Falls will attract more singers.
The problem is finding directors. There are 12 choir directors for the current 23 choirs, but Smiths Falls has found its own – Sandy Bradley.
Bradley’s life has been filled with music. She sang in church choirs from the time she was eight, but even before that she sang and harmonized with her mother “who sang and sang and sang,” remembers Bradley. All five of her brothers and sisters sang, too. “I thought that was what everyone did. It was just a natural thing to do,” she says.
And music and singing augment her creative life as a designer and artist. “Music feeds you — it’s like breathing.”
Bradley’s name was suggested to Fry via the ever present musical grapevine; she was invited to the Shout Sister! event in Smiths Falls at the Station Theatre in January this year. The fit was good, Bradley was intrigued, and she was asked if she’d like to direct the Shout Sisters! newest choir.
For her, one of the best things about a community choir is that when women get together, they share and talk to each other.
If there are other women in Smiths Falls and area who want to join a group of singing women, keep your eyes peeled for the start date in early September.
Choirs start with a repertoire of 15 ballads in the first year. All the parts are arranged by Fry. She chooses the music, records it and it’s sent out to choir members. Choir members choose which part they want to sing – high, low (soprano, alto), or in-between, and rehearsals go from there. Members don’t have to read music, just listen and learn. At the end of the year, the choir gives a concert, which is a benefit or a fundraiser in their community. Members get six more songs for a total of 21 at the end of the first year. At the end of five years, choirs should have a stock of close to 100 songs.
Grieg says that just as important as the singing is the giving back.
She’s discovered that choirs get requests from their towns or cities to come out and sing; the choirs raise money for local initiatives to help women and children in need. This is Fry’s impetus as a feminist and peacenik.
Going back to the ‘inner diva’ analogy, singing is not only fun and joyful, it also enhances health, says Grieg. According to her, brain scans show that while singing, more parts of the brain light up than during any other activity. And as well, lifelong friendships are made amongst the singers and the choirs.
For those interested in joining, all rehearsals are scheduled for Wednesday nights from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Trinity United Church in Smiths Falls, 41 Market St. N. For more information about the Shout Sister! choirs, go to https://shoutsisterchoir.ca/, or for general information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published in the August issue of Hometown News. For more articles from our August issue, pick up a print copy at a local retailer or read our digital version.