Singing can change your mood in just seconds.
It can relax you, excite you, even bring out emotions you never knew existed. Singing is universal and it makes people feel more connected with each other.
Today, when choirs are unable to meet in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shout Sister Choir brings women together through song, virtually.
Since 2014, Beth Becker has been the director of Shout Sister Choir in Guelph and she also directs the Waterloo chapter. As an elementary school teacher, Becker has over 30 years of experience directing children’s choirs.
The choir welcomes women of all ages to sing together from the comfort of their own homes.
“Since the pandemic started, we decided to sing virtually right away via Zoom. That way everyone can keep singing and have something to look forward to. They long for that social interaction,” says Becker.
“We’ve had about two thirds of the group take part but of course for the older members who might not be that tech savvy, they might not be able to, so I make sure to send them the tracks,” Becker said.
Shout Sister Choir members learn from recorded tracks, so no reading of music is required.
“All through my teaching career I conducted student choirs and musicals over my 32 years. And everyone should be involved. This was my philosophy,” Becker said.
“I’m a sight reader but this is learning from listening and it’s definitely made me a better listener. We hook the music up to my speaker and we all just listen, together.”
The act of singing with others is both powerful and joyful. The choir accommodates beginners who have never had the opportunity to sing with others as well as experienced singers who find a relaxed atmosphere.
“Many women say well, I can’t sing, but I want to,” Becker says.
“This is for women who like to sing but might be feeling kind of shy. This can help them gain some confidence.”
No one has to audition and new members are welcome to attend a practice with no obligation at any time.
Shout Sister Choir takes an unorthodox approach to choral singing with a repertoire that includes a range of musical tastes including pop, motown, folk, country and blues.
The first Shout Sister Choir was started by Canadian blues and jazz artist, Georgette Fry in Kingston in 2002. She opened chapters in Brockville and Picton in 2006. There are currently 25 chapters in Ontario under the direction of 14 directors.
Fry has dedicated much of her time in raising funds and awareness for the needs of women and children in crisis.
For Fry, it’s all about having the opportunity to reap the physical and psychological benefits of singing. So, she designed and implemented a non-reading, non-auditioning "pop" choir, specifically aimed at women who may not have had prior opportunities to sing in a group setting.
Becker has met Fry.
“It was a friend who suggested Shout Sister Choir to me. Some of the first songs were Imagine by John Lennon and songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival. And I thought ok, I’m in. I went to Kingston and I met Georgette. I came back to Guelph and that was it,” Becker said.
“We sing a great mix of everything and it’s so uplifting with themes of peace and happiness.”
Shout Sister Choir normally holds practices at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Guelph and it is looking forward to getting back to in person meetings. In the meantime, the key is to keep everyone connected during the pandemic, through song.
Zoom choir meetings in Guelph are held on-line every Tuesday evening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The Waterloo Chapter meets Wednesday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
When singing in the community, Shout Sister Choir often raises money for community charities. It has supported various organizations including Community of Hearts, Special Olympics and Michael House.
“When we visit residents at long term care facilities, it’s such a high and being able to support the community as well,” Becker says.
“The choir offers a wonderful opportunity to connect and meet with others. The act of singing is motivational and it’s a real confidence builder. It’s so uplifting.”
For those interested in joining the ‘virtual’ Shout Sister Choir, e-mail [email protected] or for more information, visit www.shoutsisterchoir.ca.