• By: OLM Staff

Big Soul Project Delivers Huge Holiday Fun

“We’re here to sing about peace, love and hope.”

As the dozens of robe-adorned choir members of the Big Soul Project shuffled out from the sacristy of the Fourth Street Baptist Church last night – colourful cloth draped around their necks and ear-to-ear smiles spreading while they waved to family and friends stacked in pews – it was hard not to feel all three of these things.

The reasoning behind the Monday night show is a spot-on representation of community choirs, local arts projects and their fundamental purposes. The choir’s official holiday concert, taking place this upcoming Saturday at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church, has sold its 1000 tickets – so, for a small food or cash donation to the Fourth Baptist Church, the public were free to attend last night’s dress rehearsal and sample the full program. Holiday cheer and good will at its finest.

Roxanne Goodman, the fearless shepherd coaxing the energetic claps, steps and three-part harmonies out of the community gospel choir since 2008, modestly stood before the hundred-piece choir – a group that’s generated so much interest it can hardly fit its members behind the altar of the quaint Glebe church. Heaps of voices piled through the small venue as the crew “wet their whistles” with a fun version of the winter classic “Jingle Bells”, the first of many numbers that audience members were prompted to croon along to. The band chimed in – a lovely touch of saxophone, percussion, bass and guitar that would accompany vocals throughout the night – and over the hill we went.

Kicking off with Eric Clapton’s “Let it Rain” and sliding into gospel goodies like “Joy To The World”, and “This Little Light of Mine” – the concert received the mighty nudge it needed after a delightful interjection from Goodman, who swiveled at her podium to address the audience about the purpose of collaboration and the beauty of song.

“If someone tells you not to sing or tells you to ‘stand in the back’, something inside you diminishes,” she said to a hushed audience. “Who am I to tell someone not to sing? I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where God says, ‘Don’t sing – you’re not in key.’

“That doesn’t matter. We’re here to make a joyful sound.” Holiday cheer and good will strike again.

After the Director herself performed a haunting solo of “Oh Holy Night” alongside a simple steel drum backing, a John Mayer hit slid its way into the set list as well as a ballad written by a member for her husband and number one fan, who stomped the night away from the audience. A soloist’s rendition of “Croire” – the booming anthem performed at Jack Layton’s funeral – spoke to much of the program’s thematic thread and this year’s concert title, Croire-Believe.

A bright moment took place near the end of the evening, when a soloist was introduced as “an example of what happens to someone who enters the choir – someone who has a little voice and then starts to believe they can sing.” Flashes of the tiny-framed yet big-voiced Sister Mary Robert from Sister Act came to mind, before the live version squeezed out from the crowd of singers – an equally as petite lady who further drew mental comparisons after shouting her powerful bluesy rasp into the free-held microphone on “How I Got Over”. Huge gospel backing, a mid-song instrumental jam and fired-up crowd didn’t stop her voice from coasting over the aisles and securing her a spot in our hearts, and Sister Act 3.

Any pitchy moment, forgotten word or nervous soloist went unnoticed, because as Goodman and the voices of her gospel devotees so clearly chanted – none of that really matters. The pats of support on each other’s backs, lively whoops in between verses, synchronized sways and beaming smiles are evidence that the Big Soul Project hopes to show, if nothing else – that a little groove and a little faith in each other are exactly what the season calls for.