What the world needs now is love, sweet love…and song leaders!

The You Gotta Sing! Chorus officially launched in the summer of 2011 with 19 shining members. We now have over 375 people coming out to sing every week!  We all blossom when given the opportunity to sing in a safe, non-judgmental circle of song.

“The more, the merrier” and “come one, come all” have been at the centre of our choir model from the very beginning.  With our ever-growing membership, however, I recently made the very difficult decision to create a Wait List for newcomers who wish to join our choir.  With a choir of our size, it is important to make sure that folks can see the director, can feel comfortable in the singing space, and can connect and get to know each other a little better at rehearsals and events.

I believe that we all we all deserve to have a safe singing space where we find acceptance,  joy, and freedom as we let our voices, and indeed our very selves, find expression.

YGS will continue to present many BIG SING community events and workshops that welcome all.  Keep checking in with our Home Page for updated details on exciting offerings.

We also actively support and promote other choirs in HRM who offer similar open-access, inclusive, and safe singing opportunities.  Leading others in song has been deeply transformational and healing for me.  We need more song leaders in our world.

If you feel that spark of desire, or even curiosity about what it might be like to get the harmonies cooking in your circle, you can check out the incredible team of Shivon Robinsong and Denis Donnelly, my dear teachers, and their transformational program: Community Choir Leadership Training

What a gift to encourage others to sing!  It changes lives, one song at a time, and is available to us all.


~Song lyrics by Hal David; music by Burt Bacharach


Leap of Faith


18 weeks ago, I took a leap of faith. I knew that I wasn’t doing enough for my soul. I wanted more of a routine than work, sleep, repeat. I asked myself what was missing and what my heart needed most. I googled “Halifax choirs” and happened upon You Gotta Sing Chorus. I liked their “feel” of inclusivity and cheerfulness, so I signed up.

I knew nobody, and showed up with butterflies in my stomach that were so big I was afraid that they might escape. I arrived early and seated myself where I thought I might “fit”. People filed in, chattering excitedly, greeting others that they knew. Next, a woman (Susan) came in and seated herself next to me. I asked how long she’d been in the choir and we discovered that we were both new. We each thought we might be Sopranos and committed to figuring out “Sopranoism” together. Along the way we met Katie & Hilary who have completed our joyful [and sometimes mischievous] Soprano quartet (also known as “the posse”).

These past four and a half months have been An incredible journey of learning, laughter, and love. I can’t fully describe it, but I’ll try.

I’ve learned – that sometimes I surprise myself. That complete strangers can (and will!) care about your well being. That a drop in the bucket eventually makes a wave. To be more open. That taking chances and going out on a limb can pay off huge. To be incredibly grateful for those who are following their passion & their heart’s (divine?) leading: these are the people who enable many others to do the same. To be part of a whole. That the world is full of SO MANY interesting and talented people. That talents sometimes weave together to create beautiful things. That sometimes creating something beautiful requires bravery as individuals (but also as a collective.)

I am so happy with where I am these days. Each week I’ve looked forward to Tuesday. To update my new friends (and be updated!) on the joys and trials of life, to be with “my kind”, and to be embraced and lifted. Sometimes at the end of a song, I can’t help but giggle, or proclaim “YES!” as if joy just escapes from me involuntarily.

To see Vanessa BEAMING with pride in front of us mouthing the words “this is beautiful!” makes me swell with happiness. When our concerts end, my face often hurts from smiling. Thank you Vanessa, for allowing us the privilege to be part of your heart, story, and song. Your selflessness is inspiring.

I’m a better person because this choir is in my life. There’s not a shred of doubt in my heart about it.

If there’s something you’re missing folks – chase it. Take a baby step in the right direction, or throw down your pen and chase that special something with wreckless abandon. I promise. It’s worth it.

Submitted by Jen Schwartz

(Photo left to right:  Katie, Jen, Vanessa, Susan, Hilary)

There is so much magnificence

“There is so much magnificence near the ocean, waves are coming in, waves are coming in.”

Summertime in Nova Scotia abounds with the smell of salt water in the air, the feel of gentle breezes on sun-warmed skin, and the sound of the waves rushing onto the beach.  

I’ve been experiencing the cooling and uplifting experience of singing this song by Miten with YGS for the past 2 months.  Every time we sing it, I can feel the gentle rhythm of being carried and supported by all of our voices together. Such a joy!

We’ll be sharing this song and many others next Thursday, August 23 at the Northwood Community Centre at 7 PM. 2615 Northwood Terrace, Shirley Burnstein Hall.  Freewill donation at the door.

Community singing events, like this one, are a wonderful way to sit and soak up the sounds around you and maybe, if you feel like it…joining in the wave of song and letting your voice out into the room.

May we all experience the cooling waves of rest, refreshment, and renewal as we gather up the energy to burst into fall with full fiery colour and joy.



Songs that connect us to each other…

You know that feeling you get when everyone around you is singing and you all know the song well enough to enjoy yourselves fully, even try out a few harmonies, have the confidence to look around and smile at the people around you …?

A birthday party, perhaps?  Or a sporting event where everyone knows the chants that lift the team’s spirits, “Let’s go, let’s go, Blue Jays…”; a sing-along that is specifically geared to a particular age group:  “kids’ music,” “seniors’ music”;  a church where hymns are selected by a few and shared among congregants; a political rally; or youth sharing songs on their ipods, ear buds in place, shuffling through their fav songs together.

These are all valuable ways that we can connect and share our lives through the power of song.

What about that feeling that comes from “spontaneous” singing, (like in musicals that we know and love or Glee) where strangers become friends, new songs are learned quickly and fairly easily, and there’s that almost immediate feeling of “oh yeah, I belong here.  I feel accepted.  My voice is okay.  Gosh, I can’t believe I’m singing and everything’s still okay, great, in fact!”  I’ve had a few experiences in my life that have altered my notions of community singing in very memorable, moving, and inspiring ways.  Times when I’ve been surrounded by others, usually in a casual atmosphere, and the gift of song is shared spontaneously, and I’ve lost a little bit of fear and gained a greater feeling of belonging.  There’s something magical about just singing together in someone’s living room, around a campfire, huddled around the piano, or at one of our choir rehearsals.

It can really happen!  This is how we teach children how to sing.  We make eye contact, we smile, we teach them the words orally, we review again and again.  There’s lots of time, space, and repetition for a little person to learn how their voice works.  Singing is a skill.  It can be learned.  Can you imagine someone saying to a one year old, “Stop singing, you’re no good at that.”?

We can all sing.  And we all deserve to be able to sing in meaningful, socially connective ways.  Community choirs in the Ubuntu Choir Network learn songs orally.  We share songs that have meaning, that demonstrate hope, courage, life-affirming themes and that welcome everyone into the experience.  The songs are generally easy to learn (a 5 minute or 10 minute song) and have lots of opportunities for rich harmonies, layered vocal parts, and are sung in many languages.  A shared repertoire is created, a shared song-history with other people.  And so, at a potluck, a rehearsal, a community event, a memorial, or a birth, we can break out into joyful or healing song, look around at our neighbours and friends and know that we belong.  We have a place in the choir, we have a place in our community.


Welcome to the YGS! Blog

The YGS! Chorus was first established in the summer of 2011. I ran a singing workshop for a few years prior to this called “You Gotta Sing!” My primary reason for starting this as a community choir was to create a safe space for all people to sing together, regardless of their experience as singers or non-singers. I believe that all people can and should have the opportunity to sing with others. As a singing teacher, I have come across too many people who have been shut down and musically wounded by being told to stop singing or that their voices weren’t good enough.

We have somewhere between 40 and 60 singers, depending on the season. There is no audition and there is a full bursary available for those who aren’t able to pay the registration fee, for whatever reason.

We end each season with a Celebration Concert, like the one we are doing this Friday. This is an opportunity for the choir to perform songs from the current season as well as a community singing component that I lead with the entire audience. (Those who wish to can sing along; those who wish to listen can do that also!) Everyone involved in the concert is volunteering their time and talents, and 100% of the net proceeds are donated to, in this case, the Stephen Lewis Foundations’ Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

We do this in the spirit of “giving back” to the African cultures, whose songs we are singing and to really make a positive difference in the world around us by singing together. The power of community singing can heal not only individuals within our own community, but also within the wider global community!