News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Celebrate community through song

Do you belt out songs in the shower, your car, or out on the trail? Or do you never sing because your fourth-grade teacher said you couldn’t carry a tune? Maybe you are a very experienced singer and/or musician looking for other voices.

Whatever label you have put on yourself, remove it and come to The Belfry on Friday night, November 22, to join in a community sing, where your voice will join with others to create beautiful spirited music.

Eight local organizations have collaborated to bring the leaders and musicians of the Portland-based Low Bar Chorale to Sisters to create a celebration of community through song. With financial support from the Ford Family Foundation, The Roundhouse Foundation, St. Charles Health System, and Sisters Folk Festival, along with organization by Citizens4Community, The Belfry, Age Friendly Sisters Country, and Sisters Park and Recreation District, the evening of stress-free fun, while connecting with others, is for singers and non-singers of all ages and abilities.

The free event, which offers two hours of good cheer and singing with gusto, begins at 7:30 p.m. at The Belfry, 302 E. Main Avenue. Start the evening at the Sisters Fourth Friday Art Stroll and then move on to The Belfry. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., an hour before singing begins, there will be food and drink options available for purchase. Complimentary snacks and water will also be provided.

The music for the evening will include pop, rock, and alt indie songs from the mid-70s to today. The organizers choose songs with great harmonies, and the occasional fist-pumping power ballad. No ability to read music is needed as songs are learned “by ear.”

The Low Bar Chorale was created in March 2016 by Portland’s Kate Sokoloff and Ben Landsverk and is backed by a band of professional touring musicians who play with Blind Pilot, Brandi Carlisle, Pink Martini, and other well-known groups.

Landsverk, the Chorale’s music director and arranger, began a life filled with music as a child. As an undergraduate at Yale University he directed the Whiffenpoofs, one of the oldest and most well-known collegiate a cappella groups. After college, he got his start as a conductor at Wilson High School in Portland. He also produces music in the band Wonderly, scoring for films and creating songs for podcasts like The New York Times’ The Daily.

Sokoloff, a brand strategist, is the Chorale’s creative director and marketing manager. She also founded Live Wire, a show which currently airs on OPB. She grew up singing folk songs with her family, performing in school choirs, and in several musicals.

The motto for Low Bar Chorale is “We’re just OK,” reflecting its no-audition, no-commitment approach to singing with a group. With each session backed by professional musicians, the Chorale sounds much better than “just OK.” The only requirement to participate is a desire to sing.

In Portland, people gather twice a month at Revolution Hall (the former Washington High School) for libations and singing an ever-changing lineup of hits. They also put on larger events, like an annual holiday singalong, a yearly Jesus Christ Superstar bash, and last summer’s Prince singalong at Pioneer Courthouse Square which drew 2,000 people. Low Bar also tours, turning crowds into bands, from Suttle Lake to Sauvie Island. And now Sisters.

One of Landsverk’s main goals with the chorale project is to get more people involved in music. Sokoloff thinks the project is about more than just singing. It’s about taking a break from ongoing stress, politics, and bad news. Scientific studies have shown that singing releases feel-good hormones like endorphins and oxytocin.

The organizers of Let’s Sing, Sisters! have an additional agenda, according to C4C’s board member Chris Laing.

“Shared song has the potential to unify people in co-creating joy…Under expert direction, the Low Bar Chorale creates a spirit of warm-hearted welcome to both new and experienced voices. Participating even once with the Chorale can build inner hope and confidence that singing can be for everyone, and we all belong together.”

A special feature of the Sisters evening is the invitation to local musicians and other local creatives to come and join in playing with the band. C4C hopes this will help further showcase the amazing collective artistry of the community.

“Our sincere hope is that musically gifted members of the community might be able to come together to present more ‘open sing’ events,” C4C’s Amy Burgstahler said.

At this time, the local opportunities for public singing by adults is limited to church choirs, the High Desert Chorale, and Open Hub with Ian Carrick at the Sisters Art Works building, plus several opportunities for karaoke at local watering holes.

Laing pointed out, “The community of Sisters has limited opportunities for open-entry, low-commitment singing. Come find your voice and sing with abandon.”


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