After a long pandemic hiatus, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Chorus resumed in-person rehearsals this week.
It is called the OPP Chorus, but members and non-members of the organization are welcome to join. The chorus is made up of community volunteers, including present and former civilian and uniform members. The group rehearses at the Salvation Army in Barrie every Wednesday evening for two hours. The Salvation Army offers its auditorium to the group free of charge.
The local chorus was started in 1998 and has members from all over the area, some as far south as Aurora and as far north as Wasaga Beach.
"Anybody can join, they just need to clear a background check," said director Danielle Belanger of Bradford.
Belanger donates her time each week to lead the chorus group as director. She was a member for 15 years before taking on the leadership role with the group before being temporarily disbanded due to the pandemic.
"The camaraderie and connectedness of our group are so strong that our first rehearsal back felt like we had never stopped," she said. "Their sound was beautiful and they sang together as one, which is how we promote ourselves. Community and policing on the same beat."
There is also an audition process that needs to take place before being accepted into the vhorus. Interested participants are welcome to attend their first rehearsal to see if they like it.
"See if you like the vibe; if it's a group you want to be a part of," said Belanger.
Afterwards, there is an audition process, where Belanger will give interested parties a piece of music to rehearse and perform.
Every year, the chorus performs at the Ontario Police Memorial and Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Toronto and Ottawa, and at various venues such as long-term care homes, retirement communities, and various church and community events, fundraisers, and fairs.
The group is already rehearsing for the National Memorial performance in Ottawa at the end of the month, which usually has around 200 to250 OPP Chorus members from all across the province come together to sing on Parliament Hill.
"To see the family members of the police offers who lost their lives, there's not a dry eye (in the crowd)," said member Donna Van Rossum, who has been with the Barrie OPP Chorus for the past 22 years, along with her husband Herman.
Donna helps coordinate all the group's performances and events, while Herman helps set up the music.
"We were the original ones who came that had no affiliation with the OPP," said Donna. "I love music, I love singing."
"I love making people happy when you sing to them, and that's our main objective," added Herman.
Deanna Tilley from Barrie is one of the newest members who joined just before the pandemic hit. She said she was a little nervous coming back after such a long break away.
"But excited to actually be doing performances," she said.
"We look forward to the upcoming Police Memorial in Ottawa and then continuing to rebuild ourselves for the upcoming season," said Belanger.
Currently, the Chorus has 16 members and is looking for more to join. Ideally, Belanger would like to build the group to around 35 members.
The chorus is open to anyone 16 years of age or older and interested in supporting the chorus motto: "police and community – on the same beat."
All members receive an official OPP uniform to wear while performing.
To learn more about the chorus and how to join, visit their website here.