The Olympia Peace Choir doesn’t just sing about peace and the power of community: The singers also practice those virtues as they learn to harmonize.
“It’s about listening to one another and seeing where your part fits in,” said Rebecca Hom of Olympia, who has sung with the group since it began three years ago. “It’s a great metaphor for peace.”
The group, performing Saturday at the Olympia Farmers Market, fits into a niche somewhere between a formal performance organization, such as Masterworks Chorale Ensemble, and a casual singing circle.
The choir is serious about music and about its mission: The nonprofit group works to promote peace, justice and optimism in members’ lives, in the larger community and beyond.
Yet having fun singing together is at the heart of its practices, which happen Monday nights from September-May.
“It’s a place for people to access music as something that brings joy and relaxation and peace and community,” said Kerri Lynn Nichols, the group’s director and founder. “I love going to rehearsals and being around these wonderful people.”
“Many people come in tired from their day at work on Mondays, and you can see it,” Hom said. “When we walk in, one of the first things Kerri Lynn has us do is backrubs; you turn to your right and you are rubbing the shoulders of the person to your right and then you do an about face and that person is rubbing your shoulders. Then we start singing.
“People are smiling at the end of the night,” she said. “We come in tired and we go out singing, and that’s not a bad thing on a Monday night.”
No audition is needed to join the group, and that means the membership is not only diverse but in some cases quite new to singing beyond the confines of the shower or the car.
“A huge percentage of our group has not been in a choir or the last time they were was when they were in high school,” Nichols said.
“It’s a wide range of people,” she said. “It’s a multigenerational group.”
Although one need not be a trained singer to join the group, training is part of the group’s mission.
“I try to strike a balance between the artistry of expression and the mastery of technique,” Nichols said. “It’s not just a bunch of people singing correct notes. It’s something more than that. We work really hard as a group to connect with the music.
“For a long time, I’d been envisioning this kind of a choir,” she said. “I had a vision of a community choir that was a very high-quality trained choir but was open to anyone and didn’t require an audition and would serve the community.”
The choir, which does several concerts a year, sang at the opening of City Hall and has performed at an Alzheimer’s care facility.
Nichols said she never imagined how quickly the group, which now has about 70 members, would grow. The first space organizers found to practice in lasted one week before the choir outgrew it.
“We were all thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we had 20 people?’ and then 45 showed up,” Nichols said. “It’s amazing how it came to be what it is today.”
Olympia Peace Choir
What: The 70-member choir will sing a winter solstice program.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Olympia Farmers Market, 700 Capitol Way S., Olympia
More information: 360-789-2056, oly-wa.us/peacechoir
To join: The choir accepts new members only in January and September. No audition is required. The practices on Jan. 7 and 14 are open to the public so those interested in joining can experience it before joining. Practices are from 7-8:30 p.m. Mondays at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 1601 North St. SE, Olympia.
Hear the choir sing “Big Yellow Taxi”: tinyurl.com/d3henxt