The enthusiasm that is a hallmark of My Pop Choir clearly began with its founder, Jacqueline Curtis.
“It’s been a life-changing experience for me – probably one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever been given – developing, singing with, working with, and playing with My Pop Choir,” she says.
The idea of the choir began when Jackie heard about an English choir developed around involving community singers of all skills. “I went to their website and could see the basic idea involved musical people, either trained or not trained, who share the love of singing.”
The concept immediately appealed to Jackie, who decided to develop just such a choir in 2011, beginning in Oakville where she lived at the time.
“The initial premise was straightforward – teach people who don’t necessarily read music to sing in various parts.”
The first challenge was how to arrange songs. “I had no idea at the time,” Jackie says, adding, “but now I can.”
It was essential to find someone who could arrange in a simple form. Jackie turned to Sheridan College because of its renowned music theatre program. And she found Doug Price.
“I knew from the first interview that he was right.” Doug went on to not only arrange the music, but also to become the Oakville group’s first choir director.
According to Jackie, there were many decisions to be made as My Pop Choir got off the ground. “For instance, do we provide the sheet music or just the lyrics?” For the first few terms both were offered, until it became clear that the singers preferred the sheet music.
“We learned so many things, every session, every choir, every term,” she says. “We learned to adjust, adjust, adjust – we made course corrections all the time to get it to where we wanted it to be.”
Most of the music is now arranged in at least three parts but that was not always the case, as it was a learning process to discover how much complexity the choir wanted to tackle. “We started with two parts, and then decided to try with three.
People learned so quickly and the teaching process became so well done, that by the time we added our second choir director we had a template on how to teach.”
Choosing the music to sing was a whole challenge in itself (and still is!). Jackie listened to radio stations and Spotify and found herself noticing the music playing while she was shopping. You will be able to read about the decision-making process then and now in our November blog.
Jackie’s focus was always on making My Pop Choir better and better for the members. “The experience had to be easy, but effective, and really satisfying for the singers.”
Once the Oakville group was a success, it was only natural to want to add more choirs. “I knew right away I was going to add three or four choirs but I needed a good hook to get the word out,” Jackie relates.
“I didn’t envision us performing initially. That just wasn’t part of my thinking.” But she wanted people in the GTA to know about My Pop Choir and she knew that television was the way to go. “Obviously the best option was City TV, and the best option there was Breakfast Television.”
So she chased them down and early in January 2012, My Pop Choir got a spot on Breakfast Television. Next was the CTV Nightly News and after that CHCH TV. Photos and articles in local papers helped spread the news and My Pop Choir began to grow.
From its inception in 2011 until 2019 when Jackie and husband, Michael Walker, moved to near Melbourne, Australia to be close to family, My Pop Choir was guided and inspired by Jackie’s talent for community building and her love of music.
She hopes to move back to Toronto in a few years and reconnect in person with the choirs and singers. “It’s the only thing I really miss!”