The Impromptu Rock Choir

In my not-so-misspent youth I used to sing. A lot.

Like, in front of people and stuff.

And sometimes, people even paid me money to do this.

In light of that fact, I was very surprised at how nervous I was last Wednesday when I rolled up to St. James Community Square to attend my first drop-in session at the Impromptu Rock Choir.

Their website and social media posts focus on the fun, easy-going environment of this informal, community choir, but it had been a long time since I had sung in a group.

Had decades of karaoke induced vocal histrionics and my regular habit of shamelessly belting out show tunes in the shower undone all those years of formal musical training?

Would my voice still blend with a group?

Would any of that actually even matter?

Well, I was about to find out.

1463074998341(Source: http://www.impromptumusic.ca/)

As I signed in and paid my $10 drop-in fee I quickly surveyed the small crowd.

While the group’s founders, Matt Smith and Fiona Sizer, have been running similar sessions in both East Van and North Van for a while now, I knew that this was only the third meeting of the Kitsilano group. While the odds were I was not the only newcomer in the room, I was not confident that I still had what it takes to throw down in a choral setting.

I was very relieved when 7:30 rolled around and Matt, the pianist and choir director, proceeded to give a quick overview of how the evening would roll out.

He explained how he would go through each song, with him singing it first, and that we could jump in as we began to feel comfortable. After that, he would teach the whole group the harmony, and each member could then choose whether they wanted to stick with the melody or break off and try one of the additional parts.

It was just that simple.

As we began to tackle the first song of the night, a fantastic medley of Prince songs, I started to wonder what made this experience different from a campfire sing-a-along. Sure, it was super fun to belt out Raspberry Beret with a room full of enthusiastic music lovers, but what was it that made this experience a legit choir?

This question was quickly answered once everyone had the melody down and Matt rolled out the additional parts.

The harmonies he broke out were not complicated, but as he patiently ensured that everyone had their parts down I could feel the room beginning to come together. And by the time we hit the chorus of Little Red Corvette, I knew that this concept was really something special.

It was not because we sounded like rock stars (although for a group of 20 strangers who had only begun singing together 45 minutes earlier the result was pretty impressive), it was because it gave everyone, regardless of their skill level, the opportunity to feel like one.

By the time we were ready to dive into the second song of the evening, Fever, by the Black Keyes, my confidence had grown enough in both myself and the group that I decided to break off from the melody and sing with one of the harmony groups.

I had only ever heard Fever a handful of times, but I quickly learned that this didn’t matter. At the Impromptu Rock Choir it really is all about learning things on the fly.

There is no need to know how to read music, and no auditioning is required.

There is no vying for parts or jostling for position within an ego-fueled micro-hierarchy.

The idea is to just show up and sing simply because you love to do it!

And that is really, really cool.

The Impromptu Rock Choir meets on Tuesday nights at Wise Hall (1882 Adanac Street, Vancouver), Wednesday nights at St. James Community Square (3214 West 10th Ave, Vancouver), and Thursday nights at Presentation House Theatre (333 Chesterfield Ave, North Vancouver). Doors open at 7:00 pm, and singing starts at 7:30 pm.

Nicole Westcott is a Vancouver dwelling, Fluevog wearing, canine enthusiast who loves this city! She is the Community Manager at Aquilini Centre West, and her favorite ways to play include exploring new food and beverage experiences, dancing until dawn, and whipping around the Vancouver Seawall on her beloved bicycle, “Elwood”.

Nicole Westcott