World Village Gospel Choir (Facebook)
There's something about singing - it's so elemental and it takes us back thousands of years because the first music that was ever heard was all about the human voice.
—Neil Weisensel, co-director
The World Village Gospel Choir is one of Winnipeg's newest vocal ensembles, but they've already presented a number of concerts, were featured in a documentary about gospel music set to air on Vision TV and recently performed at the African Pavilion in Folklorama.
Their next concert is set for Friday, Aug. 23 at Knox United Church.
The choir focuses on southern U.S. gospel music and world music from around the globe with a special focus on African music. Co-directors Neil Weisensel and Rachel Landrecht have set out for themselves and the choir the not-so-small goal of building community through singing and making the world a better place.
"I think when we sing the music of our brothers and sisters around the world, we're in communion with them, especially if they're not in such a rosy situation as we find ourselves here in Canada," says Weisensel.
"Music is amazing to me because it's such a wide field from rock to choral to classical to pop," he adds. "There's something about singing - it's so elemental and it takes us back thousands of years because the first music that was ever heard was all about the human voice. It brings people together, it's special and it's magical."
Weisensel feels music has qualities that go beyond uplifting the spirits of listeners.
"Music has healing properties that we are only just starting to understand. Music affects people on a cellular level and once we have the key to unlock how this can actually help illness, I think we're in for really amazing times."
Weisensel cites a British study that claims that when people sing together in a choir their heartbeats start to align. Another study says that singing can be as effective as yoga for dealing with stress.
The variety of music the choir sings is a reflection of the members of the choir. The 35 to 40 members range in age from nine to 70-plus.
"We've got people from all walks of life, all different occupations, different cultures, different backgrounds, and with the music that we sing, I try to reflect as much of the big world around us. We've done music in Hebrew, Iroquois, English and more."
It's the intimacy of the interaction that attracts Weisensel.
""Village' is such a cozy word. When you think of village you think it's bucolic, it's beautiful and everybody knows everybody. We're all so interconnected these days. It really is a world village these days," he says, referencing Marshall McLuhan.
He's excited to bring their unique mix of music to a Winnipeg audience.
"A lot of the stuff that we are doing I don't think has ever been heard in Winnipeg before."
The World Village Gospel Choir performs at Knox United Church on Friday, August 23 at 8 p.m.
Does music have the power to heal?