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Rainbow Chorus ready to celebrate 30 seasons of music

Rainbow Chorus Waterloo-Wellington is a community chorus that welcomes members of all genders, sexualities, and gender expressions, and allies of the LGBTQ+ community

Music has the power to bring people together, to transcend all barriers, and to cross social and cultural boundaries in a way that very few things can.

As the Rainbow Chorus of Waterloo-Wellington (RCWW) gears up for a new season starting in September, it looks forward to celebrating it’s 30th anniversary since it first began bringing music and people together.

RCWW is a community chorus that welcomes members of all genders, sexualities, gender expressions, and allies of the LGBTQ+ community.

“This is a queer-focused choir interested in developing music for a wider community that tries to involve as many people as possible while being affirming and being inviting to different communities,” said Bobbie Belfry, who manages community outreach and production at RCWW.

“We also have people in our choir who are not queer in any way, shape or form, but they just want to join.”

RCWW strives to create a supportive community for members to join together in song and have fun as it continues to promote inclusion and awareness of the LGBTQ+ communities of Waterloo-Wellington through concerts and community involvement.

People from all levels of experience who enjoy singing a diverse repertoire of choral music are invited. No audition is required.

“We have a fantastic artistic director, Alison MacNeill, and accompanist Chris Fischer, a tenor who is beyond compare and also sings with the Guelph Chamber Choir and the Elora Singers,” Belfry said.

“People are invited to just come in and sign up. Alison will put them in the right spot, whether it’s alto or soprano. And then they can try it out. There’s no pressure and people can find out if it’s a fit for them.”   

Belfry, a retired high school educator, has been involved with RCWW for about four years.

“A friend of mine was involved since the early 2000’s. I saw this as an easy fit, where I am able to use my voice in a different way,” Belfry said.

‘You’re also being pushed to do your best. Our artistic director is so strong. When we start, we think we are never going to get there, and then three months later, we are doing it. It’s thrilling. She can see and hear the vision,” Belfry said.

The idea behind the music, Belfry says, is that everyone is going somewhere together.

“I think is a really big part of the membership, that we are going to get there, and we are going to get there together, while respecting each person’s ability,” Belfry said.

The mission at RCWW is to foster community and enjoyment and appreciation of choral music through practice and performance while providing a mutually supportive and inclusive environment that promotes education, cultural enrichment, and LGBTQ+ pride.

“We have to get over the line together, so that when we do perform, there is confidence. And that confidence comes from the team we have behind us,” Belfry said.

Formed in 1994, The Rainbow Chorus of Waterloo Wellington is one of the earliest of its kind.

The chorus’ debut performance was at the Guelph AIDS Walk in Spring 1995. Since then, the chorus has produced dozens of concerts and participated in community events and national and international festivals including concerts in Guelph, Cambridge, Waterloo, and Kitchener.

The 25th Anniversary concert had over 700 people in attendance at the River Run Centre in January 2019. The first virtual concert was released in July 2021.

The chorus also performs at World AIDS Day vigils, hate crimes vigils, affirming services at a variety of churches, Pride events, community concerts with the Guelph Chamber Choir and other Guelph choirs, Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) events, and diversity events.

Today, the chorus has over 80 members from all over southwestern Ontario including Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, and Woodstock.

“We have been growing, which is fantastic. There are choirs that have not been able to continue through COVID-19, but we persevered through it all,” Belfry said.

“We held an online show. We also offered Zoom events and workshops so that we could chat with each other and see how everyone was doing. It was about keeping everyone connected.”

RCWW recently attended the Unison Festival, a quadrennial weekend choral festival featuring Canada’s 2SLGBTQIA+ choruses.

The festival brought together choirs in May from all over Canada to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“It happens once every four years. The next one in 2026 will be in Vancouver,” Belfry said.

“It was awesome experience in Halifax. They built a new convention centre downtown, and that’s where we performed. It could seat 600, and it was almost full.”

RCWW new member registration takes place on Sept. 6, or anyone interested can pre-register online. Rehearsals are held every Wednesday from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Harcourt Memorial United Church in Guelph.

“Harcourt Church is our base. Our artistic director, Alison MacNeill, is the choral leader there,” Belfry said.

“But it’s also an affirming church which means that it is queer focused and it holds an accreditation for that. The community comes to see our shows. It really is great family entertainment.”

RCWW is a registered charity that succeeds with financial supports from its members, sponsors, and communities. To join or to donate, visit here.

The board is currently planning for the year ahead as well as for a 30th anniversary celebration in the new year.

“If you are interested in singing, being part of a queer focused community, and in contributing as a volunteer, join us,” Belfry said.

“We hold money raising events including bingo, and trivia nights. Last month, we all went on a queer paddle along the Eramosa. All of a sudden, 12 boats showed up on the river. It was fun thing to do, with a real community feel to it.”

Belfry says that anyone who wants to be led by one of the best teams of musicians, should come on out.

“To have them makes for a strong team. RCWW invites all of the different stripes on the rainbow flag,” Belfry said.

“We want to be as open as possible, and to as many people as possible.”

Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community
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