Local Heroes: Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman of Choir! Choir! Choir!


CHOIR! CHOIR! CHOIR! part of TREE LIGHTING CEREMONIES at Eaton Centre (220 Yonge), November 16 and at Shops at Don Mills (1090 Don Mills), November 17, 5:30 pm, all ages. Free And as part of the ANDY KIM CHRISTMAS SHOW at Queen Elizabeth Theatre (190 Princes’), December 6, 7 pm, all ages. $25-$40, VIP $150. ticketmaster.ca

Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman lit the spark that became Choir! Choir! Choir! in 2008 at a surprise party, and it’s been burning brightly ever since. 

Besides hosting their twice weekly open-participant community choir at Clinton’s on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they’ve shared the stage with Patti Smith, Rufus Wainwright and Tegan and Sara, and performed at the AGO, Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. 

Their charitable contributions are impressive, too – a 25 Days Of Charity! Charity! Charity! campaign in 2015 raised $50,000 that was split among 25 organizations. It’s happening again this year.

Lately they’ve also become the group Torontonians turn to when a beloved musician dies. Celebratory and cathartic singalongs have paid tribute to David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Tom Petty and, most recently, the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie at a Nathan Phillips Square vigil attended by hundreds, including Mayor John Tory and Gord’s brother Mike. 

We caught up with the two Choir! Choir! Choir! leaders to find out how they became such a phenomenon, and how they’re using their influence for good.

What do you think makes people connect with Choir! Choir! Choir!?

Adilman: We started to realize very quickly that there was something happening that people felt really strongly about. I think cities can be really isolating: people are busy, they’re working hard, they want to find that tie to release and connect with people and it’s hard to make that happen, especially as you get a little bit older. It gets harder and harder to go out late and go drinking – you have to get up in the morning. 

Why has charity become such a big part of what C!C!C! does?

Adilman: Both of us feel a strong responsibility to making our community stronger and being part of things that help other people. That’s just in our DNA. Our very first gig at the Great Hall was a fundraiser after the tsunami in Japan. Besides us individually feeling this way about providing positivity and support to other organizations, we realized that’s how a lot of other people felt in our choir. It just makes you feel good helping people out. The stronger our voice became, [the more] we realized we could affect positive change. 


Samuel Engelking

How do you feel about being such an immediate and intimate part of the grieving process for people when a musician dies?

Adilman: Because we get together every single week, we’re gonna sing a song anyway. But with Bowie dying, it felt like we wanted to say something more. All these people were mourning his death and they didn’t have a place to publicly grieve.

Goldman: We’re just there to create that space where people can come together. We’re lucky we get to do that. It’s heavy but I’m pretty proud that people look to us for that sort of thing. 

What was the Gord Downie tribute performance at Nathan Phillips Square like?

Adilman: As the night continued, I got perspective on what it was doing and the flow of it, and by the time it was over, I was really relieved and proud. I felt like we’d hit so many notes and that it was the right length. It felt like a really huge catharsis had happened. 

Goldman: We played a track from [Downie’s solo album] Secret Path, and you heard Gord’s voice on the recording and everyone either sang along or just listened to his voice. It felt like one last time, almost. It was a really powerful moment. 

These tributes have opened up an interesting space for a secular type of worship.

Goldman: It feels kind of religious in a way, for lack of a better term. People will say “spiritual” or whatever, but it’s definitely something that happens. Like when we were singing [the Hip’s] Grace, Too, we cut out on the first word of the line and the whole audience was singing along. Or singing “From high up above” on Gift Shop over and over again. We sing it more times than the Hip do. We sing it, like, 12 times. Everyone’s singing and raising each other up out of however they’re feeling. It’s a powerful place to be and a powerful feeling.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

music@nowtoronto.com | @MattGeeWilliams



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