Cool Choir unites Calgarians who think they can’t sing with karaoke-meets-choir concept

Jamie Serafi brought the modern choir concept to Calgary from the UK and is hoping to grow the community

By Leanne Murray | September 16, 2022 |5:00 am

Cool Choir connects Calgarians from all walks of life and all singing abilities.

Photo: Submitted

It’s a concept that’s popular in the UK but isn’t as common here in Canada.

So, Jamie Serafi decided to bring it to Calgary.

Serafi is the founder and creative director of Cool Choir. He’s originally from Britain and moved to Canada seven years ago.

He quickly realized modern choirs singing contemporary rock and pop music weren’t as popular in this part of the world as they are in his home country.

“In the UK, it’s very saturated with these kinds of choirs. But I identified a kind of a gap in the market here in Canada, in a country where the concept of a choir was still quite old-fashioned,” Serafi says.

“People hear the word ‘choir’ and they think of a load of people sort of standing and singing in church, wearing gowns, and probably singing something traditional or religious, which is a beautiful thing.”

Cool Choir is not a traditional singing group.

A non-traditional choir

Serafi says Cool Choir turns the idea of a traditional choir on its head by being inclusive and welcoming anyone over the age of 18 who loves to sing, without judgement and without any auditions.

He says it’s aimed toward people who think they can’t sing but like to belt out tunes in the car on the way to work or in the shower.

“The majority of people that come to the choir, they believe they cannot sing,” Serafi says, adding that Cool Choir’s motto is: if you can speak, you can sing.

Serafi uses fans singing at a sporting event as an example of how a group of non-professional singers can still sound great together.

“What happens is, everyone’s voice blends, they’re in time, they’re in tune and the sound created is absolutely amazing,” he says, comparing it to baking a cake.

“You wouldn’t eat the egg by itself, it would taste disgusting, or the sugar, the butter, and the flour. But you mix it all together, put it in the oven, and with relatively little effort, what comes out is a very nice cake and a choir’s a bit like that.”

Bringing people together

Cool Choir connects Calgarians from all walks of life and all singing abilities.

“Bringing them all together and creating something profoundly life-changing,” Serafi says, adding it’s very uplifting.

They take modern songs from the likes of Queen, ABBA, Coldplay, Adele, and even Guns N’ Roses and give them the choir treatment by adding in simple harmonies.

It has proved to be a popular concept in Calgary. Serafi says before the pandemic, he had more than 500 participants across the city.

“The pandemic hit and, of course, we’ve been completely decimated and we nearly had to close at one point.”

Serafi has been working hard to regrow the Cool Choir community and is feeling positive about the future.

Jamie Serafi composes and arranges the Cool Choir.

Growing the choir community

A new 10-week trimester is being launched, along with a new location in Bridgeland opening on Wednesday at the Calgary Italian Cultural Centre.

Other rehearsal locations include Edgemont on Mondays, Mahogany on Tuesdays, and Lincoln Park on Thursdays.

“I teach the same rehearsal four nights a week in four locations across the city,” Serafi says.

“You get basically four chances to attend rehearsal… and you actually don’t pay any more to do so. You just pay one fee, and then you can attend as much as you like.”

Cool Choir also expanded into Cochrane this past January with a different leader and has seen success in that community.

A rollicking good time

“It’s about community, the people, the feel-good, and people having taken part in unbelievable performance experiences,” Serafi says, adding they have done flash mobs in the past, recorded a music video in front of the Calgary skyline, and have performed sellout shows at the Jubilee Auditorium.

Serafi encourages anyone interested in Cool Choir to book a free taster session online where they can attend any rehearsal, participate right away, and then decide whether to become a regular member.

“Take part in a rollicking good fun night out where they leave on this fantastic high two hours later, thanks to the wonderful health and social benefits of singing in the choir,” Serafi says.

“Most people that come along and experience it absolutely love it and just can’t come back quick enough.”

To learn more, check out Cool Choir’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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