Harmony of Diverse Voices
In music, harmonies gain their beauty from the simultaneous closeness and disparity of different sounds playing together. Lauda (from the Latin laude, or ‘praise’), one of the ensemble choirs of the award-winning Shallaway Youth Choir, is a symbol of the importance of diverse voices.
Lauda is a choir grounded in the concept of neurodiversity, where neurological differences are recognized and respected as any other human variation, on par with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability status. These differences can include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Tourette Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and others.
“[The choir] includes near-typical choristers and choristers who may be on the autism spectrum or may struggle with standing still, or are hypersensitive to sounds, or find communication challenging,” says Kellie Walsh, artistic director of Shallaway.
“The beauty of this group is that it includes both near-typical and neuro-atypical choristers,” explains Jennifer Adams, member of the Lauda team. “It’s deliberately not just neuro atypical kids being allowed to be themselves in a supported way. It’s about all the kids coming together and learning from each other, as equals and peers. Their talents and skills are equally valued, and at each rehearsal they’re learning from each other – the learning goes both ways. We’re teaching a generation of people to see the strengths in what have typically been called disabilities.”
Shallaway has been cultivating diverse voices in its other work, as well. Last summer, Shallaway and Ullugiagátsuk, a youth choir that was formed with support from the Nunatsiavut Government, travelled to Ottawa to sing at the Canada Day celebrations. “More recently, a group of Shallaway apprentices travelled to Hopedale for a week to perform and sing with the kids from the five communities of Nunatsiavut in Labrador,” says Walsh. “The kids love being together, singing together, and this friendship continues to grow stronger every year.”