One Hundred Voices, One of Them Yours

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Erinn in Sinaia, Romania (2017)

Whether going into their first or twenty-first season as a Peterborough Singer, choir members cannot speak highly enough about their experiences within this choral community. Just ask Erinn Burke, a multilingual soprano entering her third season with the Singers.

It’s amazing! I like the challenge; I like that I have to practise, so that gives me something to do during the winter. I really like the community—I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming everyone was. I recruited my brother to join . . . and a lot of friends that are my age have come out for the concerts and really enjoyed them.

Erinn heard about the choir through happenstance. She explains her luck: “Well, I happened upon a brochure in a café downtown on Labour Day weekend and thought, you know, ‘Why not?’” Could there be a more Peterborough story than stumbling upon a musical or artistic opportunity when getting yourself a cup of coffee downtown? Thanks in part to Trent students and faculty, and Erinn is a Trent grad, downtown Peterborough has a flourishing arts scene. The Peterborough Singers, who rehearse downtown and perform there often (and who have been known to indulge in the downtown nightlife after rehearsals and performances!) are part of that scene, and have been since Artistic Director Syd Birrell first invited Elmer Isler and his famous choir to join the PS in a performance of Carmina Burana in 1994.

Two current members of the choir were there for that very first concert: Daniel Plouffe and Sharon Brittain. They are perhaps the perfect embodiment of the “je ne sais quoi” that draws choir members to the Peterborough Singers. Daniel is in the choir because of how it makes him feel: “I feel wonderful, relaxed . . . it gives me a purpose in life.” For Sharon, who came to Peterborough in 1989 and joined the then Peterborough Symphony Singers that same season, the choir is sometimes a lifeline: “It’s a bright light in my week. I love to sing. I live to sing.” Daniel has been here “from the beginning” too, although he left for several years because of a job commitment in Toronto. “Now I’m back,” he smiles during his interview. With this, Sharon hooks her arm with Daniel’s and says, “And we’re glad he is.” Without missing a beat, he replies “I’m staying!”

And that’s just it with the Peterborough Singers. It is a professional-calibre choir populated by gifted and hardworking amateurs. It’s a place where, as Erinn says, one is challenged, “forced to practise.” But that pressure lies within. It’s about not letting your friends down, not letting the community down, and most important, not letting the music down.

The Peterborough Singers, then, is more than a 100+ voices, conductor, and accompanying musicians. It is people who come together for song and community. “We’re called the Peterborough Singers,” say Karen Taylor, a founding member who happens to be this writer’s mother. “The reasons for this are clear. The choir is all about musical skill and fellow feeling— about learning and sharing in a community that cares for the craft of culture.”

Article written by Dylan Taylor