Ever since Molly (my wonderful aunt & sometimes co-adventurer at musical events) told me about Choir!Choir!Choir! I was intrigued. Seeing them perform and lead hundreds of singers at Hillside last year made me want to check out the origins of this unique social singing event.
Folks have been gathering weekly to sing pop songs, arranged and conducted by Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman, since February 2011. This is no simple campfire sing along. The crowd (about 150 people each week) divides themselves into Low-Mid-High range voices. Each group learns a separate part with much coaching, correcting and cajoling from Daveed and Nobu.
Part stand-up comics, part musical directors, this team brings a room full of strangers together to sound something like a community choir. They tell stories, make jokes about the singers, and command the attention of the room with their energy and insistence on getting the notes right. No auditions or commitment, the weekly gathering happens on a drop-in basis with different people coming all the time. The event – now held at Clinton’s Tavern – is so popular they have added a second night each week, which also attracts over 100 participants.
By the way, my first visit (definitely not my last) to C!C!C! we sang Every Breath You Take, affectionately known as the stalker song. Here is the video taken at the end of the evening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcazwcPnPiw
How to participate: visit the Choir!Choir!Choir! website for the Facebook link. Once you have joined the FB group for either the Tuesday or Wednesday night you will receive a notification of what the upcoming song is for the week. Your homework: listen to the ****ing song. (They revisit this requirement a few times during the evening). Show up on your chosen evening and prepare to sing and be entertained.
Me with my co-adventurers for the evening!
[Choir!Choir!Choir! at Clinton’s Tavern, 693 Bloor St W, Toronto; Tuesday and Wednesday 7-10 pm; $5 cover; licensed]
Some events make it worthwhile to stay up past my bedtime. The Amsterdam Bicycle Club’s Monday night open mic has been going strong for almost five years and seems to attract not only a high caliber of music but a great diversity of styles. Rap, electronica, folk, originals, covers, solo and full band numbers all graced the stage. According to Justin, a regular at the ABC, it is also a community of musicians who are very supportive of each other.
The internet led me to believe that sign-up started at 9:30, music at 10:00, three songs/15 minutes per performer was the drill. It is such a popular spot that, in an attempt to get everyone on stage, sign-up actually started at 9:00, music at 9:30 and two songs per performer.
Special thanks to Justin, Michel & Laura, Kunle, and India for taking a moment to chat and making the night even more memorable!
[Amsterdam Bicycle Club 54 The Esplanade, Toronto; Mondays 9:30 pm (sign up at 9:00); no cover]
I took advantage of a Monday trip to Toronto to return to the Free Times Café, one of the longest running open mics in Ontario. Although there were no familiar faces the Free Times Café never seems to change. Our host, David (subbing in for Miranda Signe?), kept things running smoothly despite multiple stage configurations. Everything from heartfelt original tunes and beautiful finger style guitar to solo tambourine and well known covers. Everyone is welcome.
[Free Times Café, 320 College Street, Toronto; Mondays 7:30pm (sign-up at 7:00); no cover]
In many ways this event has a very familiar format: an evening at the pub, 2-3 songs each, lots of variety. But there are some things that make this jam unique. Hosted by the award-winning student group Musicians at Ryerson (M@R), house instruments (guitar, ukulele, keyboard, bass, djembe) are provided to allow you to take part even if you don’t have an instrument. Despite having to compete with the background pub noise, there is a core group that is there to listen and especially to encourage any reticent or first-time participants.
In addition to the open mic, the M@R team has hosted free guitar and ukulele workshops , open outdoor jams, a darkness concert, battle of the bands and campus concerts. There is a directory to help students find musical collaborators. When a musician leaves home for university, they may be leaving behind their choir, their band or their friends they can count on for a jam. Affectionately called “Ryerson’s unofficial music program”, M@R has created a musical home away from home where people can connect through music.
Thank you to the M@R crew for sharing their talent and for making me feel so welcome!
[Ram in the Rye, 63 Gould Street, Wednesdays 8-11pm, no cover, licensed – Check FB page for updates]
This open mic is a story of resilience. Arlene Levin started an open mic at Reba’s on Dundas Street West about 6 years ago. When the place sold the musicians looked for a new home; they tried a few places that just didn’t work out. According to Boris, a regular participant, “several incarnations later” they ended up at the Magic Oven and have been here for just over a year. It seems to be a good fit with food and drink available downstairs (healthy pizza with veggie, vegan, chicken and meat options) while the event has a whole room upstairs just for music.
This event has a family feel to it, even more on this lovely May day since it was Arlene Levin’s birthday and her friends surprised her with birthday cake and pizza. There is a rotating roster of hosts – when I visited it was the very congenial and welcoming Philomene Hoffman at the helm.
The sign up list was overflowing so I would recommend showing up early if you want a spot to play. And be prepared to share with folks outside the venue. Soundman Roy doubles as a StreetJelly broadcaster.
You can find pics from the open mic and announcements of upcoming events on the group’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/yorjunctionopenmic/
[Magic Oven 347 Keele Street, Toronto; Saturdays 2-6 pm; licensed, no cover]