Creating Community Through Music

by Alberta

“It is the most welcoming choir you will ever find, and there is literally everybody there from people who have studied music to people that occasionally sing along to the radio,” says Castledowns Community Choir member Laura Doyle. “Everybody is there helping and supporting and cheering everyone else on. You find companionship, fellowship, and a greater enjoyment of music just from being there.”

The choir launched in October 2016 and currently has 30 members that gather together every Wednesday night. The group is just as diverse as its community, with participants from different faiths, backgrounds, and ages. You don’t have to be a member of the Church to join; you simply have to want to sing.

“Some of the people in the choir had never looked at a piece of music before they walked in and that was something that was very important to us. Nobody had to audition, or be of a certain caliber or level to be in it,” says Dayna Curtis, the Castledowns program leader.

“We get to sit here and use music as a medium to build relationships,” says Dayna. “Some of the friendships that have developed definitely wouldn’t have happened without the choir. You’re bringing people together who may otherwise not have met, but now are connected through this wonderful group. Music is also a great tool to build a sense of confidence, self-esteem, and creativity.”

At ten years old, Benjamin is one of the youngest choir members. He asked his mom if he could join after seeing a sign outside the church on their way to the grocery store. They sent Dayna an email asking for more information and by 6:30 that night Benjamin was out singing with the group.

“I enjoy every song that we’ve sung so far. It helps build up your faith and religion by doing it in a fun way,” says Benjamin.

Recognizing that they want to be more accessible to members of the community, the program leaders make sure that the songs the group learns are varied and not limited to hymns that mainly heard in church.

“We do sacred and secular music. Anything from hymns to Broadway tunes. That’s part of the reason why people love it so much,” says Dayna “This week we started learning a song from Rent, a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace, and we also do some of the oldies like The Rose or Lean on Me. We do everything!”

“For me, the best part of the choir is working on the really difficult pieces,” says Laura. “Whenever we’re doing a piece that has a really difficult harmony and I can hear say the tenors master something that they’ve been working on, it’s amazing.”

Looking at the success of the choir and the positive reception that it has received from the Castledowns community, can’t help but put a smile on the organizer's faces.

“This program is turning out exactly like we envisioned,” says Dayna. “We wanted to reach out to the community by bringing people together in a safe and supportive environment and connecting them through a shared passion – and we’re doing that.”