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Rachel Cousins to lend talents to performance of ‘Just Sing’ at D.F. Cook Recital Hall in St. John's

From left, Helen Murphy, volunteer choir director, Rachel Cousins and Rob McLennan, director of employment services at Stella’s Circle, have worked hard the past few weeks to put together the “Just Sing” program that will hit the stage May 15 at 7 p.m. at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall at Memorial University.
From left, Helen Murphy, volunteer choir director, Rachel Cousins and Rob McLennan, director of employment services at Stella’s Circle, have worked hard the past few weeks to put together the “Just Sing” program that will hit the stage May 15 at 7 p.m. at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall at Memorial University. - Sam McNeish

Stella’s Circle inclusion choirs also set to perform

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Listening to people, getting what they are about and turning what you learned into a great song is a great talent.

Rachel Cousins, a 16-year-old singer/songwriter from St. Johns, did just that when she sat down with Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir to learn about the group and pen a tune about the experience.

The outcome is an amazing new song to be performed on May 15.

“This writing process was different,’’ Cousins told The Telegram. “I normally write with two to four people, so to sit down with this many people, hear what they were saying, and go away and write a song was challenging.”

"I normally write with two to four people, so to sit down with this many people, hear what they were saying, and go away and write a song was challenging.” — Rachel Cousins

But that is not to say it was insurmountable, as she took four or five days and brought back a finished product titled “Just Sing” that will premier during an evening of song in St. John’s on May 15.

Cousins has a unique insight on Stella’s Circle. She views it as a safe space where people get together to celebrate a love of music … and singing.

“As much as I love music, the basics of music — if you are feeling doubt — come to this space and see the entire message,’’ she said.

“When I sat down with the choir, I was so overcome with imagery and what they were saying. I took some notes, stepped away and came back with a completed song.’’

In her past and short career, Cousins was nominated for Music NL awards that include the Female Artist of the Year and Rising Star awards, was named winner of Sing NL 2017, received the 2017 Dr. Peggy Allen Armstrong Bursary and released her debut album, “This Fire,” in August 2017.

In addition, she performed alongside Canadian icons Serena Ryder, Dave Marsh, Andrew Scott and Luke McMaster.

Helen Murphy, the volunteer director for the Stella’s Circle choir, said being part of something greater is what this project, and the choir, are all about.

“There is a sense of accomplishment with this group. They are a non-auditioned group that just shows up, does their best and takes pride in what they are doing,’’ Murphy said.

“If you like to sing, come on in.”

Murphy said to have a young woman come in, sit down and listen to what the choir members had to say and then go and create a song was an amazing experience.

“This helps us to expand our collective voice and grow a larger community,’’ she said.

“An example is the Gay Men’s Choir. They sing of inclusion and, I think, through their work, we are creating a climate of inclusion. The choir gives the members a voice,’’ she added.

“The piece, entitled ‘Just Sing,’ really speaks to the power of singing together, the importance of community and being part of something greater than we are as individuals." — Helen Murphy

Stella’s Circle is a leading community organization in St. John’s.

Programs and services are offered to adults who face many barriers to fully participating in the community.

These barriers include mental health challenges, addictions, trauma, poverty, homelessness, criminal justice involvement, low literacy and long periods of unemployment.

“Rachel spent time with the Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir before writing the piece to get a feel for our group and how we work together,” Murphy said.

“The piece, entitled ‘Just Sing,’ really speaks to the power of singing together, the importance of community and being part of something greater than we are as individuals. Rachel has brought her unique perspective to this piece and we are thrilled to have a new original song added to our repertoire.”

The Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir is comprised of participants, volunteers and staff and is led by Murphy. It has been in existence for 11 years and has delighted audiences at more than 120 performances.

This project was funded by the Bruneau Centre for Excellence in Choral Music and involved commissioning Cousins to write a song specifically for the Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir.

This is the first time the choir has worked with Cousins and it was a new experience and growth opportunity for all.

The concert is set for May 15 at 7 p.m. at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall at Memorial University. Tickets are $20 and are available at ticketpro.ca, by calling 1-888-311-9090 or at the door.

A reception will be held at the Hungry Heart Café following the performance.


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