Montreal

Sing Montréal Chante brings free choir classes to schools

Andrew Gray conducts the Montreal Children's Choir but tonight he'll be on stage with another group: young students who have been taking free singing classes at school since September. For many, it's their introduction to music.

The crowd-funded music classes lead to a performance tonight at Pollack Hall

Sing Montréal Chante's inaugural concert is Tuesday evening. (CBC)

After two years of planning, one year of fundraising and three months of rehearsing, arranging and organizing, 150 children from disadvantaged elementary schools across Montreal will come together for Sing Montreal's inaugural concert tonight.

The mass choir project is Andrew Gray's dream to bring more music into Montreal schools. 

He's the director of the Montreal Children's Choir and he's seen the power of this kind of program in his native UK.

'It's a team sport'

Last year, Gray started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Sing Montréal Chante.

"When schools make difficult choices it seems music and the arts are the first things to go," he said.

"In my mind music is absolutely core curriculum just like running around. Singing is a social thing. It goes far beyond music. It helps with concentration. It helps students grow into social beings, it's a team sport."

One of the schools is Riverview Elementary in Verdun. 

A challenging experience

Since September, eight Grade 4 and 6 students have been spending lunch on Wednesdays taking singing lessons.

Grade 6 student Abigail Kwon said the experience is challenging.

"If you have to sing in a nice voice and memorize these words it's really difficult, but if you practice you get better I guess," she said.

"I'm here because I love singing. My parents told me I have a wonderful voice."

'A big learning experience'

Amelia McMahon, a choral singer herself, has spent every Wednesday this fall singing to the students and teaching them songs in English, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Maori.

"It's the first time I work with a group of kids like this. It's been a big learning experience for me as well to see the interaction and level of energy we give each other and how they blossom," she said.

Grade 4 student Tianna Roman moves her arms up and down following Amelia's lead during the rehearsal.

"It helps helps me use a high note or low note," she said. "It's a good way to express myself. It makes me really happy when I'm sad."

"It was a bit hard but I studied for an hour every day so it got easy. My parents are going to be watching me. I guess it's just fun."

Invited guests include Soulstice a cappella and Fletcher Bryce Davis. 

The concert is this evening at Pollack Hall, 555 Sherbrooke West, 7:00pm. Tickets available at the door for $10.

About the Author

Jeanette Kelly works as the arts reporter at CBC Montreal. She's also the host of Cinq à Six, Quebec's Saturday afternoon culture show on CBC Radio One.

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