Debuting tonight at Motorco, the Community Chorus Project’s new Pop Up Chorus is a chance for adults whose busy lives don’t allow for rigorous rehearsal rehearsal schedules to test out their pipes, in a motley group setting, on songs drawn from indie rock as well as contemporary and classic pop. Every Monday through St. Patrick’s Day, the ad hoc chorus will assemble to learn and perform two songs selected by theme.
The theme for tonight’s event is “Indie Boy/Girl Duets,” featuring “Sometimes Always” by the Jesus and Mary Chain with Hope Sandoval and “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John. Singers of all skill levels are welcome, and the latter selection offers a way in for even the most hopeless vocalists—after all, someone’s going to have to supply the signature whistling, right?
Pop Up Chorus is the brainchild of Lauren Hodge, the series’ organizer, and Seamus Kenney, the SNMNMNM member and middle school chorus teacher who will conduct. Hodge is the founder of the Community Chorus Project, which began in 2011 in partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Music.
To date, most of the CCP’s offerings have been geared toward children. The Chorus Project for high school kids made waves when its video version of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” was embraced by the famed pop band, who posted it on their own website and social media. “That was mental,” says Hodge. “So many people said to me, ‘Would you please do something like this for adults?’” The Pop Up Chorus was born.
Toronto’s Choir! Choir! Choir! was an inspiration for the format. “People show up there, they sing, they have a beer, they flirt,” Hodge says. “They’re building community as they go. Musically, Pop Up Chorus will have a different twist, but we’re definitely inspired by what they’re up to.”
Here’s how Pop Up Chorus works: Each week, shortly before the event, Hodge will announce two song selections via the Pop Up Chorus Facebook group. Anyone who shows up at 6 p.m. will be given a lyric sheet-—no notated music. From 6:30 to 8, Kenney will teach the impromptu chorus the songs, which will then be performed, recorded and filmed at 8:15, with the results posted to SoundCloud and YouTube.
“The funny and kind of cool thing,” Hodge says, “is that the chorus will be both the performers and the audience.” Of course, that could change if any of the clips are embraced by the artists, in which case that self-contained audience could grow exponentially online. As proven by R.E.M., this scenario isn’t far-fetched, and Hodge says she’s received confirmation that David Byrne “loves” the Chorus Project’s cover of “Who,” his song with St. Vincent.
“The music we’re choosing is geared to adults and has an indie bent,” Hodge says, “but it’s an all-ages event.”
Future selections that have been teased include songs by The Smiths, Dead Man’s Bones, Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine, Tracy Chapman, The Kinks, Bat for Lashes, Hall & Oates, The Cure and Weezer. The main idea, Hodge says, is simply to give adults the chance to express themselves without auditions or commitments.
“People tell us stories about musical traumas they had when they were little,” she says, “about being forced to go to piano lessons or having their feelings hurt by some crotchety music teacher. The main thing about Pop Up Chorus is that it should be fun—all you need to do is like singing.”
To get involved, just bring a suggested donation of $5 and a bit of courage to Motorco’s showroom tonight.