In 2013 Nickel City Sound introduced the idea of a unique “singing and wellness” initiative to a project team composed of community leaders ranging from education, non-profit, arts, health and government organizations. Together we launched a community pilot supported by the numerous studies reporting the physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits of singing together. The results were astounding…young and old who participated in When I Sing felt the effects of this achievement in quite dramatic ways showing the power of barbershop singing to enrich community spirit and belonging and foster wellness.
The aim was to engage people in singing and harmony for people who normally don’t have opportunities to sing in an organized chorus. The focus on four part, a cappella harmony in the barbershop style was inspired by the familiar and uplifting music of the barbershop tradition and its strong community roots. The title of the project was based on a barbershop tune entitled “When I Sing” with lyrics that go on to say “I just feel a lot better when I sing”, a sentiment that spoke to the heart of the project.
Led by director Wanda Olsen, 35 members of Nickel City Sound formed 7 coaching teams that travelled across the city weekly to coach members of community groups in the art of four-part a cappella singing in the barbershop style. Each group of colleagues, neighbours, families and friends rehearsed for three months and then gathered together to share their love of music with the community. 150 singers met in classrooms, activity rooms and community halls where they mastered the challenge of learning one song to perform as a group and one song to perform as part of a mass chorus for the finale of the When I Sing A Cappella Festival. The resulting festival was inspiring and a powerful example of how music can create positive change.