Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. Last week, the September grant was awarded to Spectrum Voices, a new 2SLGBTQ+ choir for the Kingston area.
New to Kingston, Ren Challacombe is in their first year of a PhD at Queen’s University. They recently graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a Master’s in community music, and also hold a Bachelor of Arts in music from the University of Lethbridge.
Challacombe shared that they first started singing in a choir at age 14 and fell in love with it.
“My high school choir conductor was an influential role model to me and made me see a future in music for myself,” Challacombe reflected.
Their Master’s and PhD research led them to create Spectrum Voices, which allows them to use what they have learned to make a contribution to their community.
“My research explores the experiences of trans+ singers and how we can use music to feel at home with ourselves, a feeling called gender euphoria. This choir is my way of finding how I can do best by my trans+ siblings and giving back to the 2SLGBTQ+ community of Kingston,” they explained.
According to Challacombe, since the San Francisco Gay Men’s Choir was founded in 1978, such choirs have been a way for people to find community, find pride in their identities, develop an understanding with people of different identities, and use music as a tool of political advocacy.
“Canada has seen rates of hate crimes rise in recent years, and I can think of no better response than gathering together to make something beautiful and share it with the world,” they expressed. “Choirs are a great gathering place that is structured, non-sexual, and sober — making it a safe place to find community outside of gatherings at bars. Choral participation can also improve health equity and self-esteem, which is highly relevant, as 2SLGBTQ+ Canadians are more likely to experience mental illness and healthcare discrimination.”
Spectrum Voices held their first meeting on September 22, to discuss goals, community values, and what music they want to sing. The first full rehearsal will take place in Duncan McArthur Hall on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.
“We welcome 2SLGBTQ+ and allied folks of any musical background (or lack thereof). We are family-friendly and welcome all ages,” Challacombe noted.
The money from Awesome Kingston will go toward paying an accompanist and purchasing sheet music for the choir.
“I try to program as much music written by 2SLGBTQ+ as possible, so this money will make an impact even beyond our community of Kingston,” Challacombe expressed.
For now, Spectrum Voices is simply a group of individuals who love to sing. Challacombe said they will perform fundraising concerts, and will collectively discuss any upcoming opportunities to see how their “collective creative vision” evolves.
When asked where they see Spectrum Voices in a year’s time, Challacombe said that they hope to have learned a lot by that time and will be able to streamline processes and have a creative vision to share with Kingston.
“My hope is that we can be a safe haven for 2SLGBTQ+, questioning, and allied people to find solace and build a healthy and diverse community in a time of sociopolitical turmoil. I also hope that more and more people feel inclined to join and share in some music with us. Being welcoming is a major goal,” they stated.
Right now, Spectrum Voices can be found on Instagram @spectrumvoices and on the Spectrum Voices – Kingston ON Facebook group. Find all their links, including how to sign up for their email list at linktr.ee/spectrumvoices.