Kathy Coulson

May 7, 2014

Steve has been asking me for a while now to present something for soul food. Finally, I said ok and then asked myself now what am I going to share? I used to have a zillion stories sent to me by colleagues and friends with a point to make, a humorous slant or a heart wrenching tale of love or loss. They have somehow disappeared from files or folders as I have cleaned up and shredded while moving into the life of a retiree.

I have been with Open Voices Community Choir since that first evening at the Steelworker’s Hall many years ago. It was at a time in my life where I needed to find something ‘just for me’ a way to express myself, care for myself and do something creative and fun. I, who never win anything, won the ‘OV lottery’! And the singing began.

I met wonderful people, Dorothy and I met that first evening and she and I have been singing partners ever since. So many people over the years have come and gone. Some to meet their maker, some to join other choirs, and some to move on to other realms. Open Voices is a common thread among us when we meet on the street or in various other places. Many friendships and relationships have developed and lasted. Many times former members come to our concerts and for some; they live deep in our hearts and memories.

Through the choir, music has opened a new world for me. I recognize tunes when I hear them and often unknowingly sing along and then realize “oh” we sang that at choir. I took music theory classes with 15 others on Saturday mornings last year and the glow of excitement was evident when I finally understood what a ‘chord’ really was. Me, who had no formal schooling in music, just the love of hearing, singing and deep listening to what others have created and expressed. Over the years we have had other opportunities to grow in our musicality with voice workshops at St. John’s Church, Sydenham St. Church, Riatron and we participated in two Kiwanis Festivals. As well, we hosted ‘The Common Thread Choir’ from Toronto.

We have met and sang with several artists over the years and forgive me if I don’t mention names as I will most likely forget someone. Andy left us twice to explore the world. We were led by wonderful and gifted directors Nicola Oddy and Jack Hurd (yea Power Altos). Margo was our pianist for several years and then she retired. Thankfully, Kim entered our lives and has been such a gift to us. We are so fortunate to have the talents of several choir members who play instruments and lead us in our music. We have made two CDs. My six year old great niece said, when listening to our first recording said…”I can hear Auntie Kath”

We have sung at The Grand, Queen’s Mac Arthur Hall, The Gospel Temple, KCVI, K Rock Centre, and Thousand Islands Community on Wellesley Island in the US. We have had gigs at Dragon Boat Races, Jingle Bell Walk, New Year’s Eve at Market Square, K Rock, we sang ‘O Canada” at Frontenac’s game and smaller ones in a variety of places. We did a Flash Mob with the Gertrude’s at a Saturday morning market downtown. A group went to Ottawa by bus to sing at Centre Point at a fundraiser and ended up having the bus driver sing in one of our concerts. There are small groups who sing in hospitals, nursing homes and community homes for the disabled. A few years ago twenty of us sang in the Intensive Care Unit at KGH for one of our members. We have been asked to sing at funerals and special occasions for some of our choir members. Many of us took the day off from work and sang at a concert for local school children, imagine hundreds of kids singing the Garden song!!

Open Voices has made a significant difference in my life. Wednesday evening rehearsals are sacro sanct. People who know me are aware that Wednesday evenings I am unavailable. There were times when I had to drag myself to practice, arrived late or almost late, straight from a sad and draining day at work. One of my students said to me after one of these particular long days, ‘you are going to choir’ as I said I don’t have the energy. Yes, I did go and became energized with the music and the warm and welcoming atmosphere surrounding me. There is something to be said for the bond and community that we share.

Open Voices has been described by some members as ‘family’ especially to those who have no family members close to be supportive. We laugh, we work hard, we share, and we do silly and often crazy things. Music has indeed opened my voice and my heart and I am confident that it has opened yours too.

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