Betsy Leighton and Jill Teas want you to come sing with them.
“We started about five years ago with twenty people singing in a bar,” says Leighton, creative director of Voice Rock!, a collection of adult choirs focused primarily in Denver. “We are now up to more than 400 singers. I have a master's in social work, and what I’m finding is building community through singing rock songs together is kind of better than anything I tried before.”
Voices Rock! currently has eight adult choirs — and one geared toward children from third grade to eighth grade — including new groups recently opened in Littleton, Louisville, Vail and Stapleton. The choirs, which operate in ten-week-long sessions, are also established around the Denver area. The different choirs will play around town, and Voices Rock! has performed at venues like Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the Newman Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s a non-audition, come-as-you-are adult community rock choir,” says musical director Teas. “We welcome everyone. There is no skill set needed. We are truly a choir for the people, and we’ve got an incredible group of people who come together once a week.”
Leighton says that she lived in London several years ago and sang in one of the city’s many adult choirs. She relished the experience, and says the choirs are good for people’s mental health and can help with the feelings of isolation many people struggle with these days. No one is talking politics. It’s all about having a glass of wine and singing some rock songs.
“I was in a particular choir that felt like yoga class,” she says. “It felt like going to CorePower. I could do something that was good for my heart and my mind, but if I couldn’t make it one week, that was okay, too.”
No one will be turned away because of their lack of experience with singing. Some people might have been in choirs as children and given up singing in adulthood, and some might have never sung at all. The choirs have drawn everyone from businesspeople to handymen to retirees to people just out of college and everywhere in between.
“We never turn away a singer, no matter what,” Leighton says. “Anyone who wants to sing can sing. We have a scholarship fund to make sure anyone who wants to sing can sing.”
Leighton and Teas say people enjoy the ten-week sessions that culminate in a performance, because it gives the choirs a more casual feel. No one has to commit for an entire year, and some people might sing in a fall session and take the spring off. It’s also okay if you miss a session or two.
“It’s an escape for a lot of people,” Teas says. “It’s the one night they look forward to each week, because they’ve built this community, and they are doing something for themselves.”
Teas adds that some people who’ve joined have been going through dark times in their lives, whether that be a death in the family or a divorce. Singing can help people work through their sorrow and grief.
“It’s a release when you get together and sing,” she says. “It’s releasing a lot of endorphins. It’s quite a powerful experience.”
The choirs switch up songs every ten weeks, but Leighton and Teas say music performed includes classics from the likes of Elton John, Queen, Imagine Dragons, Fleetwood Mac, Mamas and the Papas, Styx, Journey, James Taylor and Snow Patrol, as well as contemporary musical theater like Hamilton and Waitress.
“I have this giant binder in my house,” she says. “It’s all alphabetized. There is something for everyone.”
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Leighton and Teas say that in spite of some people not having experience with singing, most improve just by coming and singing in a group.
“We have people who’ve never sung in harmony, never sung in parts,” Teas says. “That may be challenging in the beginning, but it’s amazing what these people accomplish. Some of our singers have been with us for five years.”
“It’s amazing to see people who’ve never done a solo before stand up and do one,” Leighton adds.
For more information on Voices Rock! and the schedules of the various choirs, go to voicesrockdenver.com.