Toronto Star

Vi­ral video launches T.O. choir into Bowie trib­ute strato­sphere

- MAY WAR­REN STAFF RE­PORTER Entertainment · Musicians · Celebrities · Music · David Bowie · Toronto · Miley Cyrus · New York City · Blondie · Cat Power · The Roots · Carnegie Hall · Ontario · Justin Bieber · Bob Marley · Phil Collins · York City F.C. · New York · North Carolina · Winnipeg · Mumford & Sons · Mumford · Radio City Music Hall · Pixies · Pixies · Cyndi Lauper · Hell's Kitchen

As the founders of Toronto’s drop-in singing group Choir! Choir! Choir!, Nobu Adil­man and Daveed Gold­man are used to get­ting the crowd on their side.

But they’ve never had to wran­gle the likes of Mi­ley Cyrus and Mum­ford and Sons.

On Fri­day night at Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall in New York, they’ll lead the au­di­ence and 20 dif­fer­ent artists — who also in­clude the Pix­ies, Blondie, Cat Power and the Roots — in the fi­nale of a David Bowie trib­ute night.

They’ll also lead a sin­ga­long at tonight’s trib­ute at Carnegie Hall, fea­tur­ing per­for­mances by Cyndi Lau­per, the Flam­ing Lips and many other big names.

“We’re go­ing to do our best to have a re­ally tran­scen­dent mo­ment at the end, af­ter all of these in­cred­i­ble per­form­ers have been play­ing,” Adil­man said at his Toronto home.

“This is what we do, we get peo­ple singing,” he added. “The chal­lenge is: how quickly can we make peo­ple feel like they’re on our side and that we’re all par­ty­ing to­gether?”

The duo was called upon to per­form at the Bowie galas af­ter a video of Choir! Choir! Choir! singing a goose­bump-in­duc­ing ver­sion of “Space Od­dity” went vi­ral. The video was filmed at the Art Gallery of On­tario just days af­ter the singer’s death from cancer on Jan. 10 at age 69.

The sub­ject of this year’s “mu­sic of” event at Carnegie Hall, a ben­e­fit for mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams, was co­in­ci­den­tally an­nounced just hours be­fore Bowie’s death and was so pop­u­lar the sec­ond date was added at Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall.

For those who can’t make it to the Big Ap­ple, the Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall show will be live-streamed in ex­change for a do­na­tion to the event’s char­ity part­ners.

The pair was “shocked” when or­ga­niz­ers emailed them out of the blue. Adil­man called per­form­ing at Carnegie Hall “a pipe dream” and thought the in­vite was a prank at first.

As the old joke goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Prac­tise, prac­tise, prac­tise. Now it’s like, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Choir! Choir! Choir!” he said.

The two ad­mit­ted to nerves about what will be their big­gest crowd yet and said they haven’t had re­hearsals with the celebrity per­form­ers be­cause of their busy sched­ules. The most nerve-rack­ing part will be the mo­ment they step onto the Carnegie Hall stage.

“I think as long as we cre­ate the vibe in the room, that’s the most im­por­tant thing, be­cause ul­ti­mately it’s just about ev­ery­one feel­ing this kind of mo­ment,” Gold­man said. “We sort of spin these mo­ments and cre­ate them for peo­ple.”

The two are more used to the back­room at Clin­ton’s Tav­ern on Bloor St. W., where, with Gold­man on gui­tar and Adil­man con­duct­ing, singers come out for prac­tices on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day nights, belt­ing out songs rang­ing from Justin Bieber to Bob Mar­ley to Phil Collins.

Adil­man es­ti­mates the group has more than 1,000 ac­tive mem­bers who range in age from their 20s to 70s.

Twenty mem­bers of the group’s per­for­mance choir will join the New York City Youth Cho­rus on­stage dur­ing the sin­ga­long.

The “most painful part,” said Adil­man, was not be­ing able to take more singers, since be­ing as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble is part of what sets Choir! Choir! Choir! apart.

Since start­ing the group five years ago, Adil­man and Gold­man have seen their num­bers swell, just by word of mouth, and have got­ten calls from choirs in North Carolina, Win­nipeg and Hous­ton that want to em­u­late their model.

“There’s some­thing nice and kind of retro about sin­ga­longs that has gone away,” said Gold­man of the group’s ap­peal.

“The sim­plic­ity of peo­ple just singing to­gether just doesn’t hap­pen any­more.”

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