I have made a discovery.  Two weekends past I missed out on hugely important discussion that took place at Seneca College.  The topic: York Region Arts.  “Arts Exposed” was attended by folks from the public, private and nonprofit sectors who have a vested interest in the development of the York Region cultural scene.  The forum examined arts and culture related issues with the end goal of creating strategies to develop cultural tourism and industry. The conference’s inaugural theme  was “Arts Exposed,” and reportedly celebrated and recognized  the familiar and lesser known cultural treasures of York Region.

Among the slated topics to be examined include diversity issues, audience development, building organizations and the economic boom that can happen from the arts.  There were several speakers whom I admire including sociologist Dr. Richard Florida, authour of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City?. Florida is noted for his examination of the creative class and how creativity is revolutionizing the global economy.

Florida’s talk was covered by the York Region Media Group in “Tectonic arts shift needed: expert” by Chris Traber.  In the article Traber quotes Florida: “Yes, we need great technology and science and management, but arts and culture are critically important for a better human experience,” Mr. Florida said. “That’s the primary fuel. If you want to grow a community, you must invest in human capital. That’s the opportunity here in York Region.”

Wow! What an exciting affirmation of the things that many involved in the arts already see.  Florida goes on to say “We think that by moving money around, we create real value,” he said. “No. The bottom line of the equation is that we all share creativity. It makes us human. Creativity needs to be be stoked, harnessed and unleashed.”

Attending the conference was friend of the Blue Bridge Festival, Leslie Bertin.  Leslie Bertin represented Visual and Performing Arts Newmarket (VPAN) and she is the Artistic Producer of  the Newmarket Group of Artists.  She is also studying art at York University.   Leslie took a moment to answer some questions about the event.

There was a panel discussion that touched on different visions of creative economies.  The take-away was that each community must capitalize on it’s own uniqueness through history, and arts and culture.  In in way, it sounds like York Region needs to “brand” itself with an image inspired by rich traditions and diverse people.

It was no surprise that when Leslie was asked about the high-lights of the conference, she immediately brought up Florida’s key-note address.  “It was excellent!!” Her excitement shone through her words. She went on to explain that  Dr. Florida described how York Region, in particular, is in a unique place to embrace arts and culture.  In the past, the jobs and economic growth in the community came from manufacturing and agriculture.  Now, the growth of jobs will need to rely on human capital and expanding the creative economy.   “With a creative economy,” Leslie explains, “we are open to diversity and arts and culture are a critical piece of this equation.”  Florida also stressed that the three key sectors of industry, technology and science, business management, and arts, culture and design, must work in concert to achieve optimized economic growth.

Leslie also said that, though she did not hear him speak, the CBC’s ultra-cool voice of Q, Jian Ghomeshi (formerly of Moxy Fruevos) was a huge hit.  Not surprising to hear, considering the crowd, and the views I often hear from Q’s host over my CBC itunes radio stream (itunestream…iStream?).

And Leslie’s final thoughts? “I think it is the start of a process that does not happen overnight.  I think the more the [York Region Arts Council] does to unify artists is a good thing.  Partnerships were a major discussion topic.  It is easier to find an audience with partnerships, easier to find money, easier to find stories to tell.”

These discussions need to keep happening in York Region.  As Leslie mentioned, there need to be channels for stories to be told.  It is heartening to see that the groups and individuals who have always provided a (somewhat hidden) vibrant cultural landscape are joining forces to wake-up our hockey-loving 905 enclave! York Region is filled with arts lovers, and supporters.  Florida’s point is good: we want our community to grow so we should invest in human capital.  We all share in the human experience of creativity, so we are right to collaborate and reap the fruits.

This is good news for the Blue Bridge Festival- an event that typifies the notion of collaboration.  There is collaboration between municipalities, artists from many media, style, genre, cross-generational collaboration- you have it!  Blue Bridge Festival is a home for children and adults alike.  It is an event that celebrates the finest of the York Region creative class.  An event that, this blogger thinks, Richard Florida would applaud.


Check out the website for festival details.

“Oh WOW! You’re a singer?! That is amazing. I can’t sing…just a terrible voice…can’t carry a tune in a bucket. But, boy, would I sure love to do it.”

I hear words like these at least 4 times a month.  My response is always the same: “Everyone can sing. You should try.”
And I mean it. Everyone CAN sing, some people have done it more and are subsequently more sure-larynxed than others.  But everyone can and should sing.

There is a duality of fear and desire when it comes to singing.  The innate desire to sing and make a racket, and the fear of looking like a fool.  Some anthropologists and archeologists believe that singing was one of earliest bonding methods (read about ithere).  The short article by Sharon Begley, of The Wall Street Journal (as printed in The Pittsburgh Gazette) discusses evidence that early humans were comfortable bursting into song to attract mates and forging community togetherness.  There is evidence that musical ability evolved separately, much like the opposable thumb.  Language may even be built on the neural foundation of music.  What does this all mean? Get over your ego and start making music- why fight nature?

Before I reveal some great news, let’s explore some reasons why you may not sing right now:

8. I have asthma/health concerns.

7. I don’t have time/I am too tired.

6. I don’t want to wreck music. I just like to listen.

5. I had a bad past experience singing.

4. I have never sung before

3. I can’t read music.

2. I am tone deaf.

1. People might negatively judge me.

Now, let’s address these concerns:

7 and 8: Asthma, time and exhaustion:

There was a great, short post on the Martha StewartWholeliving” magazine website addressing the health benefits of singing.  Some of them include:

i. Instant Energy
When you sing, you increase your oxygen intake beyond  survival breathing. This increases alertness and circulation. So if you feel too tired after a busy day, singing in a choir just might be the remedy to your fatigue.

ii. Feel-Good Chemicals
“Swedish research found that Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers who sang with a choir produced more oxytocin and saw less intense symptoms.” (Wholeliving)

iii. Immunity Boost
“Several studies have shown that people produce higher levels of immunity-building proteins such as immunoglobulin A when they sing.” (Wholeliving)

iv. Better Breathing
“Singing therapy has been used to improve the lung function of children with asthma.” (Wholeliving)

Read more at Wholeliving.com: 4 Reasons to Sing for Your Health

You may not have the time to NOT be singing.

6. I don’t want to wreck a performance…I’ll just listen:

For most people the act of music-making is about the journey, not the product.  Sure, maybe won’t win American Idol, but learning and participating in a choir is a great outlet to explore and develop your musical skills.

What a sense of achievement you will have when you finally nail a tricky song.  By singing regularly in a choir your skills will improve; you could learn new language skills (lots of choirs sing in Latin, French, German etc etc etc); your memory and recall will improve and you will find a safe performance place to explore your inner diva.

5. I have had a bad past experience:

Maybe the reason you don’t sing is because you once had a teacher that said something like:

“Joe, you sound horrible, you must be tone deaf.”

“Sally, don’t sing, you are wrecking the sound of the choir”

“Tom, don’t quit your day job.”

These cruel words said to a child, or even an adult can inadvertently create a life-long fear of singing.  Singing is a vulnerable act.  Any negative comments can be perceived not as a criticism of a skill, but of you personally.  It can be hard to unpack the emotions created by the carelessness of words.  There are people who will never try singing a lullaby to their baby because their self-perception of their singing voice is negative.

What a tragedy.  If you fall into this category, but there is a niggling feeling that you would like to try finding your voice, choir may be the place to do it.  Community choirs are often social, non-threatening spaces to explore music in a safe way.

3 and 4. Never sung before/ I can’t read music:

No problem.  As mentioned before, our brains are hard-wired to hear and learn music.  It is probably why even non-musicians take such delight in listening to music.  Try singing a melody you hear on the radio.  I bet you can do it without much effort.  In a choir, there are several people singing your part and ample rehearsal time. Slowly but surely, even the rawest beginner will start to pick up the music like a champ.

There are also lots of online resources to help you learn choral music.  Check outLearn Choral Music or Cyberbass, which both contain midi files by part to help drill your music.  Both sites contain a tonne of repertoire.

2. I am tone deaf:

Not likely.  Research indicates that only 1 in 20 people have amusia (tone deafness).  Someone who is truly tone deaf cannot perceive differences in pitch or follow even the simplest tune. This is all explained in a Science Daily article. Here is a free, shorttest to learn if you are truly tone deaf.  Try it out, even if you think you are tone deaf, you may discover that though you aren’t perfect. your tone perception skills are better than you think.

1. Ego!

Sure, people may judge you if your voice is a bit wobbly or sometimes unpleasant.  But people are jerks.  Everyone has the right to sing.  It is inherent in our natures to do so.  So much of what we do in our lives is tempered by consideration for how we are judged by others.  You will find that in most community choirs, people are warm and accepting.  They, too, were new to the group at one point.  If there is a little voice pushing you to sing…I say try it!

So it seems like we should all be singing. But where to do it? The car? The shower? Yes, but part of the musical process is performance. So here is the remedy:

As alluded to, join a community choir.


  1. social — singing is a community activity
  2. personal — singing creates a sense of achievement
  3. musical — singing together makes for a great sound
  4. well-being — singing is good for your health
    (source: From the Front of the Choir)

Sure, you’d like to join a choir. But where? Well, if you are in the York Region area here is the good news.

If you are interested in joining email info@ardeleanamusic.com

Has the Songbug bitten you? Why don’t you sing? What will it take for you to join a choir? Share your feedback by leaving a comment.

Here is the information as posted on the linked website:

Community choirs and individual singers from York Region and surrounding areas are invited to join the Blue Bridge Festival Choir for a mass choir performance of Vaughn Williams’ Serenade to Music and an outstanding choral work by Carl Maria von Weber.

The massed choir will conducted by Catherine Maguire and accompanied by the Blue Bridge Festival Chamber Orchestra.


This year’s gala performance will take place Saturday June 5th, 2010 at the Trinty United Church in Newmarket. The warm-up will begin at 6:45 pm for the choir and the actual performance will begin at 8:00 pm.

Location: Trinty United Church, Newmarket.

Sundays, 2:30 – 4:30 pm at the Ravenshoe United Church, Ravenshoe until May 23rd.

Important Dates:

  • Sunday, May 30th, 2010 — Dress Rehearsal for Gala
    1:00 – 4:00 pm at the Trinity United Church, Newmarket
    (mandatory attendance please)
  • Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 — Final Dress Rehearsal
    6:30 – 9:30 pmat the Trinity United Church, Newmarket
    (mandatory attendance please)

Do I need to have experience as a singer to participate? Do I need to read music?

No! You are welcome just as you are!
However, if you tell us we can stand you beside someone who can help you with notes. There will be rehearsals in advance of the three workshops and scheduled rehearsals for people who just want to sing and do not belong to any choir. As well, the music is on cyberbass at the link above. This is a big help in learning notes!

Do you have vocal scores?

Yes. Ask Catherine Maguire or Linda Condy for one.

What is the dress for the concert?

Standard concert dress of white top and black bottoms applies. Please wear black shoes as well – your feet are visible!

Is there a participant fee?

No, there is no fee. However, as a participant you are expected to sell a minimum of two tickets to the concert. If you can help out by volunteering to help in the afternoon or another day, selling more tickets, we would be delighted!
Note: This year, core choir members have made a voluntary financial contribution to the choir. If you can afford to contribute, please talk to Brenda or Catherine.

June is a Four-Letter Word

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

It is time to start thinking ahead.  Beyond our now-reality of layer upon layer of form obscuring clothing, to a time when there is sun-to-skin contact.  It is time to think about June.  What a beautiful 4-letter word.  Here are some other 4-letter words: ARTS, YORK, BLUE and FEST.  Now that we have our frozen brains bubbling, let’s put this together:

It’s a good time to think about four-letter words because the 4th annual BLUE Bridge Festival is a mere 3 months away.  June 3-5, YORK region will come alive with the ARTS in a cross-town FESTival celebrating the creative spirit and talent of our community through music, poetry, art and movement.  Check it out Here.

For the next few months, this blog will examine the artists, contributors, communities and arts issues surrounding the Blue Bridge Festival and York Region.  Your submissions, links and feedback are welcome.  The aim of the festival and this blog is to build a bridge of arts where the community is the frame, art and poetry are the girder and music is the truss.

Please return often for interesting posts and festival information.

Outdoor music at it’s best.