Closing the generation gap: Choirs recruit younger voices through bursary program

Closing the generation gap: Choirs recruit younger voices through bursary program

With declining membership, some St. John's choirs are using bursaries to recruit younger singers.

The Gower Street United Church Seniors Choir and the Anchormen Barbershop Chorus offer honorariums to students at the Memorial University School of Music as an incentive to join.

"The choirs get the experience of young singers and vitality in the group, and it really starts to cook," Doug Dunsmore, choir director, told CBC Radio's Weekend AM.

"And the young singers start to learn what everybody else has to offer in an area they may not necessarily be familiar with, plus they also get a bursary to help [offset] some of the expenses of going to school."

The idea is to have a quartet of students in each choir. The younger students, in their 20s, mix with the oldest members, in their 80s, to create a wide demographic, Dunsmore said.

MUN student Brandon Mollon is one of the singers taking advantage of the experience. 

"Within one night I was pretty well hooked on the choir," he said.

"I've been to, I think, every practice since."

Learning from each other

Mollon said he likes the camaraderie and experience of performing at various events. Plus, he's given the opportunity to conduct, something that is important to him since he is starting graduate studies in instrumental conducting next year.

"If the younger folk don't learn what [the older singers] have to offer, it's going to get lost," Mollon said.

"Just the fact that there's so much to learn from them was an excellent experience off the bat, and I was wanting to come back to learn more."

For Dunsmore, the mixing of voices is another incentive.

"Older voices have gravitas and weight and all that, but younger voices have a different colour," he said.

"I always wanted to have young students in with the older students and with the community members because the mix of colour is what makes it vital."