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Women’s choir sings a different tune

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Belleville’s Shout! Sister Choir gathers with director Louise Bruce (front centre, with name tag) at Eastminster United Church. Photo courtesy of shoutsisterchoir.ca

By Brendan Burke [1]

BELLEVILLE – A provincewide women’s choral organization has brought its brand of inclusive singing to Belleville.

Shout! Sister Choir [2] – an all-female network with 21 chapters [3] across Ontario – officially launched here in September. The choir’s inaugural performance was on Jan. 20. On Wednesday the newly formed group will perform for the second time.

The repertoire of Shout! Sister choirs includes pop, Motown [4], blues and folk staples – a departure from the gospel and classical selections of most choirs.

But as Belleville chapter director Louise Bruce says, it’s not just the unique set lists that set this choir apart.

“It’s an unorthodox approach,” she said. “We don’t hold auditions, and we learn from recorded tracks, so reading music is not required.”

These differences, she said, create a warm and welcoming space for women to come together in song.

“It’s just a really great group of women, of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels.”

According to Bruce, there are 28 official Belleville members. Across the province there are 1,500 singers.

Bruce, who joined Shout! Sister Choir’s Picton chapter in 2014 before becoming director of Belleville’s choir in the fall, said the neighbouring clubs support one another.

“Our group is small, but with extra support from the Picton girls … then we have a nice, large choir.”

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Shout!Sister Choir’s Picton chapter performs at St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church in Picton in 2014. Photo courtesy of shoutsisterchoir.ca

The support doesn’t end there, she said.

“Some come from as far as Wooler, Consecon, Frankford and Napanee. It’s pretty interesting how it draws people from many communities.”

Based in Kingston, Shout! Sister Choir was founded by Georgette Fry [5] in 2002. Fry – who still leads chapters in Picton, Brockville and Kingston – selects songs, makes rearrangements and records tracks with her own band.

Since its inception 14 years ago, Bruce said, the choir has been community-oriented.

“All the choirs do lots of concerts and fundraisers – all for good causes in the community they’re working in.”

Shout! Sister Belleville’s first performance – Wine, Women and Song – recognized the efforts of local female winemakers and musicians.

On Wednesday, 10 songs will be performed at Eastminster United Church [6] to raise money in support of a Syrian refugee family now living in Belleville. The show starts at 7 p.m. and admission is $10.