It began merely as an idea and it had its fair share of doubters, but for the last seven years the Island Soul Choir has found a way to keep the soul alive.
“This all started out of a workshop being held on the Island for gospel music,” said Penny Mitchell, president of the Island Soul Choir.
On Sunday (Nov. 30) the Island Soul Choir will be performing at the Port Theatre, the same venue that hosted its very first performance exactly seven years ago. The concert, titled A Better Way, will feature new music and the choir is encouraging audience members to be loud.
“We don’t expect our audiences to be polite and sit there quietly and admire,” Mitchell said. “We expect them to participate as well. To sing along, clap, dance, whatever the music is calling them to do. If they want to sing and shout out then that that’s fine because that’s typical in gospel music to do and we encourage it.”
The Island Soul Choir will be joined by the Duncan-based Freedom Gospel Choir for the performance.
Mitchell believes that the Duncan choir will fit in perfectly alongside the Island Soul Choir. “The fact that they are a gospel choir really drew us to them,” Mitchell said. “We thought it would be a really great opportunity for them to be spotlighted.”
The Island Soul Choir was formed in August of 2007 by Ron Klusmeier and Brian Tate and was originally called the Vancouver Island Gospel and World Music Choir.
According to Mitchell, while the choir had supporters right from the start, it also had a number of people who doubted the choir could achieve any kind of success.
“It was thought that it would be impossible and that it wouldn’t work,” she said. “But we’ve been doing this for seven years and we keep getting new people.”
In 2009, the choir underwent changes, including a new name. It also became an incorporated non-profit society and named Mitchell as president.
Last May, Tate decided to step down from being director to become a drummer.
Tate’s replacement is Vancouver-based musician Karla Mundy, who has been a member of the Island Soul Choir since 2012.
“It’s a really exciting group to work with,” Mundy said. “They’re really responsive and really spirited and really invested in the music.”
The Island Soul Choir has also performed to crowds well beyond the shores of Vancouver Island. In 2012, roughly 50 members from the choir travelled to Havana, Cuba and performed with several choirs.
“That really inspired and really pushed the choir to new heights,” Mundy said. “It was a performance and a study learning trip.”
Mundy said there is an amazing choral culture in Cuba.
“In Havana there is something like seven professional choirs in the city. I think there are about three professional choirs in all of Canada,” she said. “So it was a great opportunity because we got to work with some of the professional choirs there.”
Today, the Island Soul Choir has roughly 130 members and has accepted some singers who have been rejected by other groups.
“We’ve got a lot of people in the choir that have been told they couldn’t sing in the past. That they had no ear and couldn’t do it,” Mitchell said. “Yet now, some of them are our best soloists. It’s really fulfilling because we have been able to give people a venue to have their voice be heard.”
The Island Soul Choir performs at the Port Theatre on Sunday (Nov. 30) at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $22.50.
For more information, please visit www.islandsoulchoir.com.