Ode to Cantores

This past Tuesday I attended my before-last practice with Cantores Celestes, a choir based in Bloor West Village that I’ve been singing with for about two years now. I walked into the church late and sweaty — clattering about the pews as I frantically dumped my purse, pulled off my jacket, and assembled my sheet music.

The women of Cantores Celestes, in all their splendour

The amazing women of Cantores Celestes

Finally scurrying up the steps to join the 50 or so women already rehearsing on stage, I paused to take a few restorative breaths and open my ears to the music. Being a mostly punctual person, listening to a piece in progress isn’t something I’d had the opportunity to do much before.

They were singing David McIntyre’s Ave Maria. Which, when you’re actually performing it, kind of sucks. The rhythm is hard and the harmonies aren’t normal. I’m pretty sure I look like Neve Campbell in Scream when I’m singing it. Terrified.

But standing there in front of my fellow choristers, you would never guess any of that. They were producing really lovely, beautifully cohesive, warm music. As Jackie would put it, a fitting ode to the feminine nature of the divine.

I’m not a religious person, but there is something very powerful about a large group of hard-working, smart, strong women just enjoying singing together. Sharing a purpose. And there’s something even more powerful about them celebrating another woman through song.

When they finished the Ave Maria, I took another breath and made my way to my usual spot in the third row, already feeling refreshed and forgetting the cares of the day.

Going to choir practice is kind of like going to the gym: getting there is a slog, but you never regret it. In fact, you leave lighter.

Actually, you know that feeling you get when you rock out in the kitchen with a wooden spoon? Well Cantores is often like that, but to Fauré and with a bunch of friends. We sing every piece — even the Ave Maria — with gusto. Kelly, our Director, puts every inch of her heart behind each concert. Which is why I’m sad that our concert in Perth on June 29 will be my last.

My work friend Tina shared this quote by Anatole France with me on my last day: “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves.” I’m really going to miss this part of my Toronto self.

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