I'm watching about 20 young people huddled in the round inside a warehouse studio in Southeast Portland. The group repeatedly clusters off into smaller sections, then reassembles back into the larger circle. Watching them move—and listening to them sing—I imagine some sort of telepathic hive-mind at work, individuals subsuming their identities into the whole. And as their massed voices slalom through tricky arrangements, one can imagine that this choir, like so many others, is ushering the listener to some intended spiritual epiphany. Even if what they're singing happens to be an old Pink Floyd song.
But the members of the Dahoo Chorus insist that there's nothing especially spiritual going on here, no cultlike group mentality among the members, no priorities higher than creative expression and lots of fun.
The Chorus, which celebrates its first birthday this month, is an organic outgrowth of Portland's Kaosmosis collective, the group responsible for a string of successful theme parties at the Crystal Ballroom and Bossanova. The Chorus began as a way for enthusiastic fans at those parties to participate more directly in the events, and is now a regular feature, performing group-friendly classic-rock tunes by the likes of the Beatles and Queen.
For some, the Chorus is one artistic pursuit among many; for others, it's their main creative focus. Some are returning to singing and performance, others daring to share their voices for the very first time. The one constant among these varied personalities, everyone agrees, is the ability to check those personalities at the door. Not, granted, to the extent of the groupthink I envisioned while watching them work, but enough to get serious about learning their parts.
"There's a feeling when people sing with each other, people are moved," says creative co-director John Averill. "So you can be spiritual without being spiritual." He stifles a grin, as though he's gotten away with something.
"We encourage a level of participation beyond just sitting-down-audience-member," co-director Darcy Dziedzic adds. "So people know there are more options out there to express themselves, so that everybody can access a creative experience, and maybe the world can become a happier place." She ends on that note so matter-of-factly that I start to think belting along to Queen songs just might lead to world peace.
The Dahoo Chorus performs with the Roswell Sisters, That One Guy and Solovox as a part of "Suono Angelica: The Language of Harmonics," part of the EnterActive Language Fest, at the Bossanova Ballroom. There will be a dinner extravaganza Friday, Nov. 4. 7 pm. $65-$85. $5 after 10 pm. 21+. On Saturday, Nov. 5, there will be a vocal procession from the Park Blocks across the Burnside Bridge to Bossanova, where the show will commence at 9 pm. $15-$30. 21+.