Even during a downpour, the Carbondale Community Choir attracted five participants (including our photographer) on Tuesday, May 3. The choir meets next on May 17 at 6:30 p.m. in Sopris Park. Photo by Raleigh Burleigh

After a COVID-pause during the winter, the Carbondale Community Choir is back! They had their first gathering of the year last month and will continue to meet on the first and third Tuesday of every month, rain or shine.

The choir is hosted by rotating volunteers, including Cara Lynch, Pam Rosenthal, Gabriela Mejia and Jessica Congdon. Each session offers a safe space for those who just want to sing.

“There is no motive, just the opportunity to express ourselves through song and connecting with fellow members of our community,” noted Congdon.

The Carbondale Community Choir is meant to foster community, especially after the difficulties and isolation experienced during the COVID pandemic.

A long-time vision of Rosenthal, the choir came into fruition last year after Sweet Root, a local band, was in need of voices for their Mountain Fair set. After formalizing a core group of six participants who performed, in addition to community members who would also gather and practice all summer long, there were several people who decided to continue on.

Rosenthal wanted to create a space she wished she would have had access to as a young child eager to belt out in song. She recalls a memory at the tender age of 12, when a choir visited her rural school. Amidst the commotion and all the excitement, young Rosenthal sang and soon found herself pushed to the back where her voice was drowned out by the others. “[The] teachers were so mean. … Choir was something you had to try out for, you had to be good enough, it wasn’t an invitation for a young person to sing.”

Now a professional musician, Rosenthal wanted to change that narrative for all the singers who are curious but often too intimidated to let their voices be heard. “There are choir members who come and whisper their songs and, over time, we’ll see them start to step up. … We never pressure anyone, no one is ever called out, [you’ll] never be put on the spot unless that’s your jam,” said Rosenthal. She assures you there are no evil eyes if you can’t hit the right note.

The Carbondale Community Choir is a passive learning environment where people learn by training their ears. “The choir doesn’t teach me to sing; it allows me to experiment with my voice and come to a better understanding of whether I am in or out of tune with the other voices. I can freely experiment, improve and find harmonies,” said Congdon.

The hostesses encourage members to sing for the fun of singing, “I always want to allow space for messy,” said Rosenthal. Although the choir does not perform, there are occasional opportunities presented and shared with the group and decided upon based on common interest. In the future, Rosenthal sees a possibility for harmonizing workshops, in addition to singing time.

Participants are welcome to bring their own songs and contribute to the flavor of the session. Well-known and loved songs, including traditional gospel songs and songs with Earth-honoring themes are sung around the circle occasionally, accompanied by shakers and Mejia’s acoustic guitar.

The Carbondale Community Choir is free of charge; there’s no sign up or pressure to commit to anything as a member of the choir. In fact, if singing isn’t of interest to you but you still want to participate and build community, you’re invited to bring a blanket or pull up a chair and listen.

The choir hostesses see this as their gift to the community and their biggest goals are community building, accessibility and diversity. Rosenthal hopes that more young voices will join the choir. “Our culture has really gone off-track with our [perfectionism]. … we’re teaching our young people that they’re not allowed to do anything unless they’re already good at it,” said Rosenthal.

Singing is a vulnerable, creative expression that requires one to expose themselves and their limits. As Congdon eloquently put it, “we can heal ourselves through acceptance of our own unique voice. Finding that harmony within, and the ability to share it with others, is a gift to the world.”

The choir meets next on May 17 at the gazebo in Sopris Park, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.