Day 6

Choir! Choir! Choir! hosts a social distance singalong amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

As musicians and artists feel the brunt of cancelled performances, Choir! Choir! Choir! is using their time in isolation to help people connect with each other through virtual singalongs.

Co-founder Nobu Adilman says COVID-19 makes it even more important to help people feel connected to each other

Daveed Goldman, left, and Nobu Adilman of Choir! Choir! Choir! perform a virtual sing-a-long on Facebook Live on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, for fans staying indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Choir! Choir! Choir!/Facebook)

Originally published March 20, 2020.

Performers in the music industry are facing an unprecedented period of change, as the COVID-19 pandemic forces cancellations for everything from annual festivals like South by Southwest and Coachella to one-off concerts and tours.

This shift is inspiring everyone from Coldplay's Chris Martin to the New York Metropolitan Opera to find creative ways of bringing their art to fans.

Toronto-based singing group Choir! Choir! Choir! is taking it a step further, by trying to make their digital performances as interactive as possible. 

The group began nine years ago in the hopes of providing a space for people who feel isolated in their everyday lives to hang out and experience something positive together.

"A lot of people come in and they're strangers to each other. It's just a huge community builder," Choir! co-founder Nobu Adilman told Day 6 host Brent Bambury. "It's something that we didn't quite understand."

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But music is also connecting people facing loneliness and isolation as areas around the world go into lockdown or practice social distancing. 

'Overwhelmed' by fan response

Choir! was set to play their first shows in the U.K. and Germany this spring and summer, with additional sold-out performances across Europe and the U.S. But as the severity of the pandemic began to take hold those shows were cancelled or delayed indefinitely.

Facing an uncertain few months, Adilman and fellow co-founder Daveed Goldman started looking for creative ways to bring people together while keeping apart.

"People find themselves in their homes, not able to reach out in the way that they're used to, and it's scary. So, you know, for Daveed and I, we're in uncharted territory, trying to figure out how we keep the ball rolling and keep spirits up and keep our own spirits up as well," said Adilman.

On Wednesday, they decided to host a virtual choir get-together they called an "Epic Social Distan-Sing-Along!"

Adilman and Goldman are pictured before leading the crowd in a Stevie Wonder song at a Choir! Choir! Choir! evening in Toronto on Nov. 14, 2018. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The experimental performance, streamed live from a couch for nearly an hour and a half, attracted over 9,000 participants that night on Facebook Live, with over 150,000 views in total.

"I'm still overwhelmed by the experience. People logged on from all over the world, from Australia to Germany to Hong Kong, Hawaii, New England, Yukon," Adilman exclaimed.

More livestreams planned

The event was such a success that Choir! already have another one in the works for this Saturday, and are speaking to video conferencing companies about finding ways to make the experience more interactive.

"We're brainstorming different ideas on how to make it even more interesting. We've got other things up our sleeves that we're starting to work on," said Adilman.

Some of those performances will be timed specifically to reach their fans in Europe who missed out on planned shows this spring and summer.

Reflecting on why people often turn to music in times like these, Adilman spoke to the power of memory and connection songs offer.

"It stirs you in ways that other people or situations couldn't, experiences couldn't. And it's always been there. You know, you have a song for every moment of your life," he said. "It's got a power and it communicates so many complex emotions with such seemingly simple means."

Written and produced by Amil Niazi. To hear more, download our podcast.

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