Choir! Choir! Choir! is a Canadian musical duo that travels the world conducting live concert events where audience members learn original arrangements of pop music hits, practice them, and perform them live on the internet for the world to enjoy!
The duo is comprised of Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman, both from the Toronto area. The pair takes a non-traditional approach to choral music — there are no auditions and the audience is the choir!
Founded in 2011, Choir! Choir! Choir! has amassed a dedicated and passionate community of singers in addition to a thriving fan base on YouTube. The group has performed with artists including David Byrne, Rick Astley, Debbie Harry, Patty Smith, and Rufus Wainwright, and at such prestigious venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall.
On this drizzly Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 afternoon, Nobu and Daveed will work with college students — in addition to other members of the community — at Toms River, NJ’s Ocean County College in the school’s bustling Student Center cafeteria. The program is sponsored by the OCC Student Life organization, in addition to the college’s Jay and Linda Grunin Center of the Arts.
Before the program begins, we chat with several adult members of the community who have come to participate in today’s event.
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States Leslie from Manasquan, “I’ve watched Choir! Choir! Choir! on YouTube for the past six months and I was really excited to learn they were going to be here in our area. I just love this group where everyone’s the star, yet nobody’s the star!”
Leslie’s friend, Andrea from Ocean Township, agrees adding, “I’ve been following Nobu and Daveed for a year. I discovered them on Facebook and thought I would end up going to Toronto to see them, but when I heard they were going to here be at Ocean County College, I said, ‘I’m here!’”
Their friend, Trina from Lakewood — who, despite sporting a large cast on her arm — reveals, “I just had shoulder surgery, but I would have been here if I had to come in a wheelchair! Andrea told me that the audience was going to be singing Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ today. My daughter’s dog’s name is Jovi, so I’m here representing my daughter, Courtney, as well as Jovi — my ‘grand-dog-daughter!’”
As we take a look around the OCC Student Center, we can see that the busy cafeteria is filled with people eating their lunches, completing homework assignments, engaging with their phones or tablets, or just chatting with friends between classes. Entering the mix, however, is a busload of 75 high school students — members of the Toms River High School South Choir — many of them proudly wearing their maroon and white Toms River South Music Department T-shirts.
Lyric sheets are distributed to everyone in the Student Center cafeteria before Mark Wilson — the Grunin Center of the Arts Director of Cultural Affairs — welcomes the crowd and thanks them for coming, introducing everyone to “Nobu and Daveed from Choir! Choir! Choir!”
Here, the pair energetically takes the stage where Nobu takes the microphone and jokes, “I want you to know this session will last from eight to ten hours — no one will leave this room ever again.”
Following laughter, Nobu explains, “Choir! Choir! Choir! is us — me and my partner, Daveed. We travel around teaching pop choral arrangements,” before emphasizing, “but the key is: there are no auditions! We started our group eight years ago — and two years ago we even performed at Carnegie Hall — but, for us, it’s all about building community.”
Describing how the lyric sheets work, Daveed explains, “The left side is the lead vocal, the right side is the back-up vocal, and anything that’s printed in bold is to be sung in harmony.”
He continues by adding, “After we learn the arrangement, our live performance of the song will be broadcast on Facebook,” to which he jokes, “There will literally be dozens of people watching the video.”
After taking a moment to acknowledge the students of the Toms River High School South Chorus, Nobu and Daveed lead this crowd — now filled with students, senior citizens, teachers, parents, college employees, and more — through a warm-up session which includes stretches, deep breathing exercises, and vocal warm-ups, accompanied by Daveed on his acoustic guitar.
“We just flew in from Nashville at 6am,” explain the men, “but we’re from Toronto,” before joking, “It’s great to be here in New Jersey — one of our top 30 states!”
Going on to add, “There aren’t many cities we hear about in this state, but we do know about Six Flags and its Kingda Ka rollercoaster,” the duo also mentions two musicians from the Garden State with whom they’re quite familiar — Bruce Springsteen, famous for “Dancing in the Dark,” and Jon Bon Jovi, known for “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
Splitting the choir participants into two groups — “the higher singers” and “the lower singers” — Nobu and Daveed begin to teach the groups their respective parts of today’s song selection — “Livin’ on a Prayer.” As one group sings the “Tommy used to work on the docks” lyric from the song’s verse, the other group punctuates with a rhythmic “Tommy, Tommy” counterpoint.
Nobu and Daveed also teach the choir to sing in two-part harmony on the “Hold on to what we’ve got/It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not” bridge before instructing them how to sing contrapuntal harmony on the infectious “Woah, we’re half way there/Who-ah, livin’ on a prayer” chorus.
In order to more effectively integrate the parts, at one point, Nobu and Daveed have the singers from both groups stop singing the printed song lyrics and “meow” their respective parts instead!
As the groups continue to work together, the pair peppers the participants with encouragement — e.g. by exclaiming “You really have to give it!” — while they entertain them with their self-deprecating humor — for instance, by quipping, “We’re not that good looking — look at your lyric sheets!”
After both groups have learned their individual lyric and melody lines, Nobu concludes, “All right. You now have all the parts,” before joking, “What you do with them will affect the rest of your lives!”
Here, he and Daveed start to lead a dress rehearsal of the song before noticing a faction of Toms River South students happily dancing in the back as they sing. Inviting these students up to the front of the stage “for inspiration,” the audience cheers for these choir members before rehearsing the song one last time prior to the live broadcast on Facebook.
Once the official live feed ensues, the guys exclaim “Let’s hear it for Jersey!” as they introduce Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer” joking, “Without this song, it wouldn’t exist!”
At this point, the multi-aged audience-turned-choir performs an energetic rendition of “Livin’ On a Prayer” live on Facebook, which includes jumping, dancing, singing, and plenty of cheering at the end!
As Nobu and Daveed stick around to take selfies with members of the crowd, we chat with several participants from today’s Choir! Choir! Choir! event.
First, we talk to Tom and Virginia from Pine Beach.
Explains Tom, “We are retired high school teachers — I taught math, and my wife, Virginia, taught special education.”
According to Tom, the couple attends a variety of arts events each year at the college’s Grunin Center of the Arts, stating, “We love the Grunin Center, and when we received an email about todays’ event, we wanted to come and support the young people.”
His wife, Virginia, agrees, before acknowledging, “We had a wonderful time today!”
Next, we chat with Ariana, 17, from Toms River, a high school junior and member of the Toms River South Choir, who was one of the dancers invited up to the stage by Nobu and Daveed to inspire today’s group of singers.
When asked about the energy she displayed for the performance of today’s song, Ariana remarks, “We have a great choir teacher at Toms River South, Mr. Martin, who wants us to have energy and be dedicated to every performance we do,” before disclosing, “and I love ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi. I grew up in a family which listened to his music and I even went to see him in concert.”
Ariana concludes our conversation by energetically chanting, “Go T.R. South!”
We also get a chance to chat with Ariana’s music teacher, Phil Martin, who remarks, “Toms River South is amazing in that they allow us to participate in events like today’s Choir! Choir! Choir! experience. It’s such a perfect event to bring students to because it teaches them the importance of working with members of the community.”
“And all 75 of my kids had a great time,” comments Martin, before declaring, “I love my job!”
Additionally, we catch up with two of the audience members whom we met before the show — Andrea from Ocean Township and Leslie from Manasquan.
“I loved every minute of this concert!” remarks Andrea.
“Nobu and Daveed taught this Jersey choir a great Jersey song and the crowd was really into it,” states Andrea before revealing, “I even got a selfie with the two of them, and now I’m planning to go to see them in Toronto!”
Her friend, Leslie, remarks, “I really enjoyed this program — it’s such a community builder. Lots of times, it’s not unusual for some people to tend to hide at events like this, but with Choir! Choir! Choir! you definitely don’t have to!”
Lastly, we converse with Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman and ask them to share their thoughts about bringing their Choir! Choir! Choir! event here to the Garden State.
“It’s always exciting to come to a new place,” states Nobu. “When we first heard we’d be doing this event in a cafeteria, we were like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ but we always feel that if people can come and can give us their attention, we can hook them,” before acknowledging, “and the energy was certainly there today.”
Daveed explains, “We’re not really a band that records new songs and travels around singing them. What we do is try to put together a community of performers with our original musical arrangements which we make accessible to all different kinds of singers.”
“We always try to make each event feel like a ‘hang-out.’ That way, people can just let their guard down — and grow,” adds Nobu, after which Daveed concludes, “No matter where we perform — from a college cafeteria to Carnegie Hall — our goal is to create an experience to remember.”
For more on Choir! Choir! Choir! please click on choirchoirchoir.com. To learn more about upcoming performances at Ocean County College’s Grunin Center of the Arts — including programs by Celtic rockers The Young Dubliners on Sept. 29, female country artists Farewell Angelina on Oct. 6, and Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez on November 2 — please click on grunincenter.org.Photos by Love Imagery
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