Port City Choir brings harmony to eclectic musicians

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Port City Choir brings harmony to eclectic musicians

When Franca Vresk first moved to Saint John from Toronto, she knew she wanted to put together a local choir.

What started out as a dream, has now turned into a group of 25 to 40 singers with a variety of experience, who also throw beer and fundraising into the music mix.

"Most people want to come at least once a month," Vresk said. "Our core is 25."

At open mic night at O'Leary's Pub, the Port City Choir, a group of singers take the stage once every two weeks. 

It's a pop-up choir, meaning they only practice for an hour or two before performing in front of an audience.

It's for anyone, even if they don't think they can sing.

"We welcome everybody, definitely. It's a walk-in," the owner of Soul Centre on Canterbury Street said. "There's no commitment."

And, when Vresk first heard her group sing, she almost cried.

"I didn't expect that many people to show up. To be honest, I just threw it together."

"I was like, 'OK, let's try this,'" she said. "All [of a] sudden everyone's singing on stage. I was all emotional."

Charitable funds raised

The choir members also try to work harmoniously towards a common cause.

Each member pays $5 to perform, they play their show and Vresk decides what Saint John charity receives the funds. It's never the same.

They've raised more than $800 so far, with another $100 in the pot for their next show already.

Marlene McKeen, a member of the group, said the choir helped bring her out of self-imposed isolation and pushes her to get through the week.

'Old-fashioned party'

"It truly is an old-fashioned Maritime kitchen party. From the second you get there, grab your beer, or grab your coffee or glass of water, come upstairs," she said.

"We have a blast learning the songs. Then we go down and perform."

The choir is designed for newcomers and they sing mostly rock 'n' roll or pop songs.

"Anything but church [music]," McKeen said, laughing.

Monica Newman, 22, said she tries to encourage others her age to come. While people are apprehensive, she said they shouldn't be. 

The group even had an 82-year-old come out and sing.

"It's about coming together and having fun," said Newman.

The Port City Choir will be back on stage on March 22.

"It brings together community," she said.