“There’s something special about sharing your voice that’s very different than playing an instrument,” says Wendy Nixon Stothert.
“When people let down their guard and allow their voice to be heard in song, it opens an emotional connection to others.”
That’s just what Stothert expects to happen when 25 Just in Time choir members tour Cuba next March on a cultural musical exchange.
In preparation for the tour, 85 choir members will give an intimate, fundraising concert at the Little Red Church in Comox at 7:30 pm on Dec. 19.
“It’s a sweet space,” says Stothert who created the three Just in Time choirs nine years ago. “We’re delighted to be performing there.”
As well as Christmas material, the concert includes selections from the choir’s Canadiana set featuring Canadian composers, arrangers and recording artists. Soloists will perform with the band, which includes Sean Mooney on piano, Grahame Edwards on bass and Vanier student Jonathon Fairbank on percussion.
In Cuba, the choir will spend a week with a Havana tour company that specializes in cultural exchanges.
“We’ll meet adult community choirs to do some musical shares and participate in workshops with an a capella salsa jazz group. That will be really fun as the a capella singers use the human voice to replicate the sound of piano, trumpet and bass,” explains Stothert, “Cuban music so complex and beautiful, melodic and rhythmic.”
The choir will also visit a Grade 8 middle school that focuses on the arts.
But Just in Time’s trip to Cuba is about more than just singing. Their goal is to take musical equipment such as strings, reeds and choral music to donate to music programs.
“So many music supplies, including sheet music, are hard to come by and in great demand in Cuba,” says Stothert. “We’ll also take personal hygiene items such as cosmetics, soap, shampoo and school supplies. That’s what we’re fundraising for.”
The choir has already received a generous donation from Megan Rutledge, a Grade 12 music student at Mark R. Isfeld Secondary. After a visit to an underprivileged elementary school, Rutledge raised money to help them start a music program. When a government grant filled the need and she heard about the Cuba expedition from a choir member, she was thrilled that the money could be used by other students.
In addition to the concert, Just in Time is raising money with Thrifty Smile Cards and is holding a silent auction at the concert.
“People have been extremely generous,” says Stothert. “There are all kinds of neat goods and services available ranging from massages, hotel packages and handmade crafts.”
Fundraising isn’t a new venture for Just in Time. Last year they, along with other community musicians, staged an eight-hour singathon at St. Joseph’s hospital cafeteria. Altogether they raised $6,500, which was donated to the Views to purchase iPods and headphones for residents to use.
“I was thrilled to hear how listening to music has affected residents of the Views,” says Stothert. “People can bring their favourite music with them from home, the hard of hearing can turn up the music as loud as they like and people who speak English as a second language can listen to podcasts in their native tongue.”
“It’s just wonderful to know that as a community we raised that money and made that difference,” she adds. “And it’s great to know that a choir can affect positive change in the community.
“What we share in that room is so special – we’re all connected by a common purpose — it’s very powerful. And we’re so happy to be able to spread that feeling around in the community and even take it to Cuba.”
Tickets for the Just in Time Cuba fundraising concert are available at Bop City Records in Courtenay and the Red Carpet Boutique in Comox. A more formal concert will be held at the Sid Williams Theatre on Feb. 8.
Paula Wild is a published author and re