Cathy moved to Toronto from Montreal in the late 1970s when there were rumblings that Quebec might split from the rest of Canada. She worked for many years as a counselor and educator in health care. Now happily retired, Cathy lives with her husband and two rescue cats, When not singing, she spends time gardening, making jewelry, weaving, cycling, reading and travelling.
Echo: Before joining Echo in 1997, you had discovered that you really enjoyed choral singing when you joined a church choir in the 1980s. Did you have any musical training?
CG: I really love church music so in spite of my lack of musical training I decided to try singing in a church choir. I can’t sight read music but have a good ear. Based on my singing range I was placed in the second soprano section. This turned out to be good thing because this section tends to have the melody which I love to sing.
Singing is also a legacy thing for me. My grandmother, whom I never met, was a professional musician. She played the violin and sang on the CBC. My mother also had a beautiful voice, and sang as a soloist in choirs in Montreal. When she spoke of choral singing her eyes would light up with joy. Unfortunately she was a heavy smoker and stopped singing prematurely. When I quit smoking, I looked for things I could do that would keep me from smoking again. Joining ECHO choir became a way to keep healthy, reduce stress and maintain my voice. It feels great to be able to still sing.
Echo: When you first saw Echo perform, what did you like most about the choir that led you to join? What made you stay?
CG: The choir was just one row of a dozen women. Many were members from Holy Trinity church; the church where choir practice takes place. I knew Becca Whitla, one of the original artistic directors. She led the choir in a relaxed performance of folk pieces. There was a range of ages, and it seemed like a friendly, inviting group. Not overly pressured. People who have formal musical training or none at all can find a place in the choir and perform pieces that are fairly sophisticated.
Being in the choir for twenty-five years has been wonderful. It’s a great way to connect with people who share a love of singing. Under the direction our Artistic Directors, my knowledge and taste in music has been broadened. The repertoire is best described as unusual, challenging, and delightful. We sing in different languages such as Hungarian and Mandarin and many our songs focus on social justice. We collaborate with guest musicians and sing really interesting pieces. We have also had the pleasure performing unique works composed specifically for Echo. The concert at the end of each term is a real motivator. It is exciting, energizing, the culmination of everything we’ve worked towards. It is an opportunity to create something lovely.
Echo: How long have you been on the Board? Why did you join?
CG: I’ve been on the Board for four years. It is another way of supporting the choir and gives you a different perspective on how the choir is run. There is quite a bit of work to do. I’ve helped to organize some of our fundraisers and create surveys to collect feedback from choir members about their experience with the choir.
Echo: What would you say to a prospective choir member?
CG: If you enjoy singing a broad range of music in a relaxed, egalitarian atmosphere with other people, this is the right place for you.