A new choir has formed in Whitehorse and before it began it was already reaching capacity. It seems people are eager to sing popular, radio-style and indie songs from the past 30 years.
They’ve called themselves the Whitehorse Pop Choir, and they perform a variety of songs unlikely to be found in more traditional choirs. Their set list ranges from such established artists as Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, and The Dream Academy, to current indie folk groups, like the Fleet Foxes.
Erica Mah, who moved to Whitehorse in September, brought the idea with her from Vancouver.
A longtime singer-songwriter herself, Erica Mah also performs alongside her husband Darcy McCord.
Before she moved North, she had already set plans in motion to recruit members for her new choir.
“It was a funny experience coming here in September,” she says. “I had sent something out on Artsnet and – boom – I got lots of responses. Word got out and before I even got here it was a full house. Yeah, it’s been popular.”
The pop choir format appeals to some who may otherwise not consider being in a choir. Then there are others who are involved in other choir groups, but are happy to get the extra practice and expand their repertoire.
“Some people sing in two other choirs,” Mah says. “They sing every day and have lots of experience. But then there are a number of people who’ve never sung in a choir before. They were just grateful to have a chance to sing because they’ve always wanted to, but have been afraid because they would have to audition, or have to read sheet music or things like that. So it’s been really nice to welcome beginners and people of all levels.”
Erica Mah first encountered pop choirs in Berlin while visiting her sister, and later joined a pop choir in Vancouver before deciding to bring the concept North.
“It’s a way to get to know a song that you love,” she says. “When it comes right down to it, everyone loves to sing along to their favorite songs. To be able to do that with a whole group with different parts and accompaniment – it’s a really exciting thing to do. It’s a different kind of excitement than mastering a traditional choral piece.
“But don’t get me wrong, I love choral music and I love classical music. Most of the singing I’ve done with other choirs has been a more traditional approach. I just think this kind of model, having seen it in other cities, makes the music so accessible. Choosing a more classical style you don’t get that same feeling of singing along to your favourite song.”
The choir is 20 people strong, with a mix of vocal ranges, age groups, as well as experience levels. Somebody who falls in between not-much-choir experience and plenty-of-performing-live experience is Fiona Solon.
Solon performed in choirs as a teenager and in bands as an adult. She has led local rock groups Pegasus Wing and Hammerhead, and, most recently, started playing bass and singing backup vocals for Old Cabin. But she hadn’t been intrigued by the traditional choirs in town.
“I have a long love affair with classic rock,” says Solon. “I knew the words to some Styx songs before I remember ever going to school. So when Erica posted on Artsnet for the pop choir I was all over it. I just can’t get enough.”
Along with playing music and singing in the choir, Solon is also the president of The Guild Hall and the producer of the burlesque show Varietease. She’s also got a regular job.
“I do a lot of stuff in the community because I love it,” she says. “If I was going to take something else on, regardless of what it was, it would have to be fun and not a huge commitment.”
So the pop choir must be fun. With just 20 members they are comfortable meeting and practicing in Erica Mah’s living room. For now.
The Whitehorse Pop Choir will be performing their first show on Dec. 4 at the L’Association franco-yukonnaise. Space is limited and tickets are close to sold out. To enquire about any available tickets, or any spots that may open in the choir, mail Erica Mah at firstname.lastname@example.org.