“Singing is as good for me as yoga; it’s great for my brain and my soul,” says Betsy Leighton, founder of Voices Rock! Denver, a 170-voice choir that welcomes singers of all skill levels to perform popular songs in a no-pressure environment. “People are nervous when they come in, but they walk out accepted. It’s so much fun. People get connected and they find an outlet.” Jill Teas, music director of Voices Rock! Denver and Leighton’s business partner says, “We want people to love music and have fun singing.”
Voices Rock! Denver, a non-audition, come-as-you-are choir, offers adults and teenagers over 16 the chance to sing pop, rock, Motown, gospel and chart songs without the need to read music or have any previous singing experience. The choir rehearses weekly in 10-week sessions at Montview Presbyterian Church in Park Hill. Each session culminates with a performance. Singers/members pay $150 per 10-week session to cover expenses, including the costs of published music and hiring a rock band accompaniment for concerts. Contributions from members help to cover dues for those who can’t pay, Leighton said.
“Jill and I have been surprised by how much the opportunity to sing moves people,” said Leighton, a mother of three who works in film production. “The singers are so grateful. For me, music is a huge part of my life, with songs that take me back and songs that move me forward. I have read that music is what feelings sound like. I think it’s a wonderful way to get past our façade.”
Singer Theresa Garcia, 27, said: “My roommate and I joined Voices Rock! and it gave us something fun and community-oriented to do every week. Now the choir has become a Denver family for me. It has expanded my life; the impact it’s had on my experience during the last two years has been profound.”
Leighton was inspired to start Voices Rock! while living in London and singing with Rock Choir, about 20,000 voices strong across the UK. “The adults in their 40s and 50s around me were active and playful, singing at outdoor village fairs. I wanted something that fun when I moved back home to Denver.”
She found Teas, who shared her vision, and Voices Rock! Denver began in 2014. Teas, a Mayfair resident and mother of two, has taught music in schools for 26 years; she currently teaches at Stanley British Primary School in Lowry. “Betsy came to me with her concept and I thought it was brilliant,” said Teas. “We started with 45 singers the first year and it has taken off. It’s an inspiration for me to bring something to people that they wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s hugely rewarding.”
Both Leighton and Teas attribute the choir’s success to the fun atmosphere and the contemporary repertoire. “We sing the songs people want to sing,” says Teas.
Choir member Jim Dissett says: “I sing in the car and around the house a lot; but singing in front of people–out loud–can be kind of intimidating. The atmosphere of the choir is so laid back and comfortable, it really becomes easy and so much fun.”
Voices Rock! Denver doubled its membership leading up to their performance at Red Rocks. Leighton says she’d like to see it keep growing with chapters in areas like Boulder and Fort Collins. Future plans also include a VR2 children’s choir.
The choir welcomes new members for the next session beginning in September. The next concert will be Dec. 4 at a location to be announced. For more information see VoicesRockDenver.com.