Entertainment Local

Drop-in rock choir raises voices and spirits

By Brian Paterson

Impromptu Rock Choir hosts drop-in nights Tuesday to Thursday. (Submitted Photo)

Impromptu Rock Choir hosts drop-in nights Tuesday to Thursday. (Submitted Photo)

All children are born artists.

Our earliest years are filled scribbled drawings, constant singing, and imaginative games. As we grow older, however, these opportunities for expression tend to fade away.

Matt Smith is on a mission to change this.

Three years ago, he and singer Fiona Sizer founded Impromptu Rock Choir as a bastion for adults to come and play.

“It’s a drop in choir created from whoever shows up that evening,” Smith says. “It doesn’t matter when you’ve sung in the past or haven’t. It’s not about creating a perfect performance. It’s focused on being social, making music, and having fun.”

The playfulness of Smith’s approach can be seen in the repertoire selected, which draws on rock, pop, and Motown hits from yesteryear, as well as those currently populating the airwaves.

“Tonight, we’re going to be singing Into the Storm by a pretty new artist called Banners, and Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King,” Smith says. “We do a couple different songs in an evening: a new song that we change every three weeks, and a favourite that we’re bringing back.”

Asked for the group’s ‘Greatest Hits’, Smith provided an eclectic array, including Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Vance Joy’s Riptide, and a special mention for Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.

In addition to creating a joyful creative space, Smith and Sizer see the choir as a very intentional way to break barriers around participation.

“We looked at what might prevent people from joining a traditional choir: Things like being able to read music and the need to commit for a whole season or year,” he says. “With the rock choir, there’s no commitment. People can come and go as they please. And there’s no note reading – all the melodies and harmonies are learned by ear.”

The choir has also made itself available geographically. Since starting on the North Shore in 2014, its popularity has grown to a point where Impromptu Rock Choir meets weekly in East Van (Tuesdays), Kitsilano (Wednesdays), and continues its original North Vancouver night (Thursdays).

“I’ve had several first timers come up and say, ‘I heard about it several months ago and have finally worked up the nerve to come now’,” he says. “We draw a really diverse range of ages and people – and I think courage is the one thing that brings them together. We attract folks who aren’t afraid to try something new.”

While the choir may be an ad hoc assemblage on any given night, this doesn’t mean the music isn’t beautiful.

“What we do, there’s definitely a rawness to it – a roughness,” Smith says. “But what’s amazing is - considering the scenario we’ve given ourselves - how good it sounds. It’s always musical; always joyful. And that surprises people.”

Impromptu Rock Choir hosts $10 drop-in nights ($5 students) Tuesday to Thursday. Locations and information at www.impromptumusic.ca.