How Choir! Choir! Choir! became Toronto's must-see show
If you ask a question like how did Choir! Choir! Choir! get so big and become the hottest ticket in Toronto, you might not get a simple answer.
Both Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman, who lead the five-year-old musical behemoth, say it's because of the people, the singers and non-singers who come to the smaller weekly sessions as well as the massive event-driven sing alongs. But dig a little deeper into that eager, passionate crowd and you'll find it's a lot more complex.
Sean O'Neill is the associate director of adult programming at the AGO, and he first worked with CCC when he asked them to perform around the gallery during a First Thursday party while Patti Smith was also playing. After he showed her a video of CCC singing one of her songs in the space, she freaked out and they ended up performing with her.
Then David Bowie died. Nobu and Daveed brought their choir to the AGO and a video of them performing "Space Oddity" garnered millions of views and social media responses, including tweets from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey himself. Something has really clicked about how the duo seek to connect groups of people who just want to sing out loud without judgement.
"What happened with that video was crazy," O'Neill says. "More people watched the periscope of CCC than visited the AGO last year! It’s a testament that there’s a special spirit here."
That spirit gets mentioned a lot because it seems like it has always been there, from the early days when CCC used to rehearse in a real estate office on West Queen West, or in Nobu's living room. It followed them through a handful of venues until they landed inside the back room of Clinton's, where they now host sessions twice a week.
"It’s still overwhelming," says Nobu. "Back in the day, we felt an energy, but we didn’t realize what we had. I don’t think I was ready to realize it."
Toronto has been in love with CCC for some time, but it was this year's Bowie video that got them invited to perform at Massey Hall for a Prince tribute as well as at both Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall in New York. Then there was that Rufus Wainwright gathering at Luminato with 1,500 singers.
The two founders are finally realizing the power of what they've created.
"Less and less we seem to have things that we can all gather around," Nobu says. "We used to have Thursday night sitcom television, and now it’s sporatically about Netflix or disastrous live events, or sports."
But there are exceptions. "When Bowie died, which was very sad and awful, there was this weird feeling that we felt the same thing, through so many generations. I felt it more than anything before."
It's about bringing strangers together in a room and sharing something truly communal.
"It’s also because we create a dynamic in the room," Daveed says." It’s more than just singing. It's challenging, engaging, emotionally investing, being proud to be part of something. We’re only doing it because other people are committed to doing it."
Choir! Choir! Choir! is now a full-out business. They have management, booking agents in both Canada and the U.S., they speak at conferences and recently travelled to a Brazilian talk show to get an audience of Brazilian celebrities to sing together.
"We know people and we know how to bring strangers together to create a strong bond," Nobu says.
Okay, so they also have a nack for great song choices. Think Justin Bieber's "Sorry," Adele's "Hello," or John Lennon's "Imagine," which is why so many people show up and ultimately share online. But its real strength and growth comes out of making it easy to be part of the coolest club in Toronto.
"If people come together, they can actually get shit done," Daveed says. That’s the best part of it. To inspire people and make them proud. CCC has done that through creating a caring community and giving back through all kinds of charity work. They've sponsored two Syrian families and their latest 25 days of Charity! Charity! Charity! is their biggest project yet.
"You can spend $1 million to market some random thing, but if you’ve got something that moves people on a pure and simple level that really is about hope, art and expression - that’s profound,"O'Neill says.
Daveed continues this sentiment knowing full well CCC is as huge as it is in a big way because of Toronto. "People are happy that we exist," he says. "Even if they don’t come out, they’re happy we exist which is important in a city like Toronto, which is known for being cold.
"Toronto is not the city it was 20 years ago, and it’s fun to be part of that in some way."
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