Local choir singing for more than music

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle

Resistance Rising choir has hosted concerts on social and environmental causes for over two years

Photo via Resistance Rising Choir Facebook

Although choir has always been a huge part of her life, Rama DeLaRosa never saw herself becoming a choir director, or someone who has helped people find their voice while facilitating social change through music. 

Born on Vancouver Island, but receiving most of her schooling in Florida, DeLaRosa began to sing in an adult choir at church when she was seven years old. She continued to sing in choir and musical theatre throughout grade school, and credits her music teacher Bruce Yost for helping her develop her skills and solidify her musical passion through middle and high school. 

DeLaRosa then began to perform solo at 18 years old, and she has lived off her performances and original music most of her life. Though she has always had the musical talent, DeLaRosa says she lacked leadership skills and resisted forming choirs or music groups. 

“I arranged harmonies in previous bands and I have a choral background through all of my grade school and into college, however, I resisted the position of leadership,” says DeLaRosa over the telephone. “It was actually after people were telling me that I should have a choir that I started to consider it.” 

So, for seven years, she facilitated a weekly women’s song circle on Salt Spring Island — which allowed DeLaRosa to not only grow the voices of singers on the Gulf Islands, but also her leadership abilities. 

“I noticed through my experience in the song circle that when I let the song circle do its own thing, things wouldn’t really gell and it wouldn’t sound as good as well. When I started stepping into the leadership role more and driving the circle, it really gelled beautifully.” 

Having honed her leadership skills with the women’s circle for seven years, in the fall of 2018, DeLaRosa decided to found Resistance Rising, a choir based in James Bay that is dedicated to advocating for social and environmental justice. 

“Resistance Rising choir is dedicated to raising awareness, building community, and inspiring action by bringing the magic of vocal harmony to the front lines of social justice and environmental causes,” she said.

The group is open to individuals of all ages and singing abilities. The Resistance Rising choir rehearses every Monday from 7-9p.m. in James Bay. 

In their first season, the choir raised $3 000 for a matriarch camp — with the funds going towards a group of First Nation matriarchs looking to save wild salmon. DeLaRosa says the money helped the group purchase a boat to monitor fish farm activity. 

The second concert raised $1 500 for Xwaaqw’um, an Indigenous cultural revitalization initiative on Salt Spring Island, and the donations helped Xwaaqw’um youth participate in their first tribal journey. In the group’s third season they raised $700 for Red Willow Womyn’s society, a nonprofit group based in Duncan that supports Indigenous women and families by helping to keep Indigenous families together. 

Currently, DeLaRosa has been working on writing a song — inspired by youth working to foster ecological change in the world — for the choir. 

“There was the time of the bomb where people had to hide under the desk and such, but what we’re facing now is not isolated bomb sightings, what we’re facing now is cascading ecological collapse,” she says. “The youth have rights to be upset … especially in the face of all of the apathy, you know the house is on fire and people are sitting on the couch watching T.V. instead of responding.”

The main theme of the song, DeLaRosa says, is to raise awareness and solidarity with the youth and the environmental issues they’re advocating for. 

“I want them to know, ‘hey I hear you,’ yes this is important, and yes we are going to get through this, so I wrote this song for the youth,” she said. “I’m very excited to perform it for them, it’s my best work yet. 

Despite the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the choir has still been able to arrange online meeting times to practice for their fourth season. DeLaRosa believes that while we remain physically distant it’s important to stay socially connected. 

Though DeLaRosa never imagined she would have the leadership abilities to direct and lead a choir, after hours upon hours of honing her craft — first with the women’s circle and later with Resistance Rising — she’s allowing people to find their own singing voice and form their own community, just as Yost did for her all those years ago in grade school. 

“It is wonderful to see someone step into the power of their voice, because it’s such a wonderful feeling. It’s hard to ignore the good that it does in your life, singing in particular creates a very powerful bond.”