In 2011, Simon Abbott left his home in Quebec for what he thought was a three-month visit to Halifax. Only now, five years later, is Abbott saying farewell to Nova Scotia.
The 27-year-old director of the Phoenix Community Choir is heading out in August on a bicycle trip from British Columbia to Patagonia, with the intention of raising money for Phoenix, a non-profit organization that provides housing, counselling and assistance to vulnerable young people.
"I moved around a lot before I came to Halifax. I couldn't have imagined staying anywhere for five years. That's a big commitment," says Abbott. "And when I came here, I actually didn't think this idea for a choir was going to work. I wasn't sure that a choir would be attractive to youth who were facing homelessness."
Despite his misgivings, the choir proved to be a huge success. The group, which includes Phoenix youth, staff and community volunteers, has performed more than 200 songs over the five seasons to appreciative audiences. The members choose the repertoire through a democratic process, and their selections are weighted towards popular tunes from bands like Queen, The Beatles and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Before embarking on his bike trek, Abbott will direct the group's five-year anniversary concert, Phoenix Community Choir: The Best of the Best, Saturday night at St. Andrew's. He says the biggest challenge was narrowing the program down to 30 selections. "Everyone has favourites, but I think we ended up with a pretty great range."
Abbott says he's going to miss the sense of community that blossoms in the choir. "Everyone thrives in a safe place where you can have moments of success and camaraderie. Music breaks down a lot of barriers."
Phoenix Community Choir: The Best of the Best
Sat June 4, 7pm
St. Andrew's United Church 6036 Coburg Road