Every Thursday, I drag my work-weary body downtown to Marianopolis College, where I have the privilege to conduct the Siamsa Singers. The Siamsa Singers are a truly unique group within the local choral world: they are a choir that sings almost exclusively Celtic and folk music. And the choir happens to be my baby!
I started the group completely unknowingly in 2007. I was newly arrived in Montreal and studying at McGill University in music education when a woman I’d met at the Montreal Highland Games a few years earlier called me up to teach an Irish singing class. Thursday nights, church hall, seven or eight singers, decent pay, and I didn’t have to actually know any Gaelic. Sounded pretty good! I had no idea then that I was starting one of the most defining activities of my young adult life.
The first few weeks of classes went pretty well. I was working on a few Irish pieces, mostly things that I knew from my band or from singing in choirs. It helped that it was all women, so I knew plenty of soprano-soprano-alto music. I’d met some very nice ladies and we’d begun to bond. And then I learned a valuable, if heartbreaking lesson: you can never please everyone in life. I received some pretty nasty emails from four of the women, telling me that I wasn’t like their previous teacher and that they didn’t like what I was doing and that they were quitting the class. I was completely devastated. “Am I a bad teacher?” “Should I have changed to please them?” The three remaining singers convinced me that the answer to these questions was an emphatic “NO”, and we passed a lovely rest of the term together.
Seven years later, the group has become a mixed voice choir of 35 singers, and we are heading off on our first concert tour to Newfoundland this summer! Hard work, musicality, dedication, and a strong sense of community are the cornerstones of the choir. The Siamsa Singers are non-auditioned and we welcome singers from all musical and life backgrounds. Over the years we have gained and lost singers, finally arriving at a core group that inspires each other to challenge themselves and to constantly improve, vocally and as an organization.
By the way, the handsome one to the far right became my husband!
Oh and we really love to cook (and eat)! Our retreat day potlucks are the stuff of legends. Come, and eat with us in the hallowed halls of Choirhalla!
Tonight we perform our spring concert, “Bound Away”. For anyone in the Montreal area, the concert is at 7:00 pm at the Church of St John the Evangelist, 137 President-Kennedy Ave. I’d love to see you there! The concert is going to be fantastic, and features new and old favourites from the choir’s repertoire, like “Frobisher Bay”, “Loch Lomond”, and several sea shanties. I cannot wait!
I firmly believe that with enough
whip-cracking perseverance, anyone is capable of learning to sing in a choir. The people you meet in choir are the salt of the earth. (And sometimes you end up marrying them!) I arrive every Thursday completely exhausted from my teaching week, and leave exhilarated and inspired for the week ahead.
Life is just better with choir in it.