Every Friday afternoon, seniors meet to practise with The New Players Choral Society at the Melville Heights retirement residence. “We’re a family,” says music director John O’Halloran.
The group performs around Halifax, often in the Public Gardens. Recently they drew some 366 people for a concert at St. Agnes Church Hall. “We had to remove the pews from the hall to make more room for people,” recalls O’Halloran.
The not-for-profit group relies on grant funding, ticket sales, and donations. Money goes into the choir to pay for musicians for concerts, instruments, and travel. “We would like to play more concerts,” says O’Halloran, adding they need to raise money for bus rentals. Melville Heights donates weekly practice space, coffee, tea, and cookies for the choir members, plus a storage room for their instruments.
There is a lot of talent in the choir. O’Halloran has sung since age 4; he attended the Royal Conservatory of Music, and played with Louis Armstrong in New York.
Members have diverse backgrounds and skills. There is a Former Miss Canada, many retired professionals, and veterans.
“Music connects us all,” O’Halloran explains, adding that non-singers are welcome. “We always find a use for our members. We have artists that make our signs for the shows, design our tickets, and others that help promote the choir.”
Pianist Greg Doyle and drummer Huntley Blair have both been with the choir for seven years. “I started on a trial basis and haven’t left yet,” laughs Doyle.
Doug Jennex attends every Friday’s practice right after his dialysis treatment. “I love to sing,” he says. “My health is a wreck; my problems are under control because I can come here and to sing.”
Colleen Mielke is another active member. The choir takes her back to her Cape Breton roots, “Music is in my soul,” she says. “When I was a kid there was always music and dancing with my parents.”
The Choral Society is open to new members, no skill required. “If you are 45, have a pulse, and we have an open chair, you’re in,” says Doyle. Members currently range in age from 52–96.
The New Players Choral Society’s next concert, Broadway Legends, is on June 2 at St. Agnes Church Hall at 6903 Mumford Rd. Tickets are $15. newplayerschoralsociety.com.