By Martha Tobin
Originally published in 'Upbeat', the Ottawa Citizen, December 13, 2014
Often during this holiday season we are reminded that it is better to give than to receive. But what if you could do both at once? Wouldn't that be better still? Such is the case with Big Soul Project Community Gospel Choir and Band (BSP) and their annual Christmas Concert. The proceeds from this once-a-year concert allow BSP to give back to the community by helping other not-for-profit groups raise thousands of dollars for their worthy causes.
One such community organization is Ancoura, a charity in Ottawa whose mission it is to provide a fulfilling environment for adults living with a mental illness. Through stable housing and a supportive community, volunteers provide a 'circle of friends' for the residents. One of the core beliefs of Ancoura is in the potential for individuals to be empowered to grow. BSP shares that belief and so it was a natural fit when the choir performed their “Lifting You Higher” benefit concert this past March for this group. Monies raised that evening were used to help support the Ancoura resident program, paying for professional care and general operating expenses.
Roxanne Goodman, the dynamic choir director for BSP said recently, "The most important thing is what we're singing about" and the songs that the choir sings are meant to empower, entertain and inspire through hope, love, joy and peace. All music is performed with a soulful beat and an incredible onstage energy.
This on-stage enthusiasm is contagious and at BSP's most recent “Music for the Soul” benefit concert for the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church Mom & Me program, the entire audience was dancing and singing in the aisles. Reverend Cheryle Renee-Chapman Hanna could not have been more pleased with the turnout and the monies raised. "There was an incredible outpouring of joy. The sanctuary was filled and everyone was having fun and was engaged. Everyone left wanting to tell someone else about the good time they had,” she said.
The Mom & Me program started as a way to give back to the community. The church realized that the days were not only long but isolated for many moms, dads and caregivers staying home every day with infants and toddlers. In an effort to offer more stimulation to both the adults and the children, the church began a weekly program where children and adults would meet alongside an ECE educator for fun, play, activities and fellowship.
Bringing people together to promote a sense of empowerment and connection is also a key objective of BSP. Established in 1999 this non-denominational adult choir with over 100 members and a four piece R & B band uses music to enliven and give back to the community.
In the spring of this year BSP performed a benefit concert for the Friends of the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ) Foundation. The proceeds of this “Making Dreams Come True” benefit concert went towards bringing 25 young musicians in the NYOJ on tour to perform in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. The NJOY offers free classical musical education as a tool for social change.
Oprah said recently, “You receive from the world what you give to the world”. Big Soul Project Community Gospel Choir and Band gives from the heart and sings with all their soul. Each and every member (including myself) is part of the choir because we can’t imagine being anywhere else or enjoying anything as fully and completely as singing with this choir. What we most want to give has been given to us.
This year’s Christmas Concert is on December 20th at Dominion-Chalmers United Church. We usually sell out, so check the web site to see if tickets are still available. www.bigsoulproject.com
We also have a dress rehearsal of the full concert on December 15th at Fourth Avenue Baptist Church (Bank and Fourth). No tickets are needed for this concert – just a cash or food donation for the Food Bank. Doors open 7 p.m., concert starts at 7:30. Seating on a first-come, first-served basis.