Cheer The Fuck Up, With This Local DIY Choir

The OK Chorale democratizes the concept of the local community choir.

(Julian Alexander)

It's not your grandmother's choir group!

No, really, that's the whole point. When Kate Sokoloff founded the OK Chorale earlier this year, the notion was to democratize the concept of the local community choir, and doing so meant opening up the songbook beyond stodgy standards.

"I grew up singing in choruses, and my dad was a minister, so I sang in the choir," says Sokoloff, who also produced the radio variety show Live Wire. "But I don't want to sing that kind of music. I wanted to sing Beyoncé."

Inspired by a video of 500 mourning David Bowie fans in Toronto singing "Space Oddity," Sokoloff finally decided to start a drop-in choir, recruiting music director Ben Landsverk for their own Bowie tribute. They held open rehearsals at Marthas, the bar downstairs at Revolution Hall, and ended up attracting 60 people. Now, the OK Chorale meets every other Monday in Revolution Hall's Assembly Lounge, singing everything from Adele to R.E.M. to, yes, Beyoncé.

And on Dec. 22, the group throws its first special Christmastime concert, called Cheer the Fuck Up, featuring a slate of vaguely "holiday-adjacent" songs like "God Only Knows" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" and modern Yuletide classics like the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." Sokoloff promises there won't be "anyone onstage in robes." Like their regular meet-ups, the singers will be whoever happens to be in the room.

"What's really struck me was how many people were moved because they didn't know they could sing," Sokoloff says. "They had been told, like a lot of us, 'Don't sing so loud' in second grade, or 'You can't sing on key,' and they were sort of traumatized and just assumed they could never sing. But if you're surrounded by people who can sing more or less OK, you sound good."

The OK Chorale presents Cheer the Fuck Up at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., on Thursday, Dec. 22. 7:30 pm. $18 advance, $20 day of show. 21+.

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