Sing Fires of Justice: Exploring the Impact of a Community-based Music and Social Justice Tradition

Lee Willingham, Debbie Lou Ludolph


A Saturday morning choral workshop for church music leaders in 2005 has mushroomed into a full-blown community choral event that raises funds and sheds a spotlight on a social justice cause. In this paper and presentation we provide the rationale and the strategic planning that has seen Sing Fires of Justice grow from a scheduled choral conductors clinic and celebration of Reformation Sunday into an annual ecumenical event. Sing Fires brings together church choir singers and their directors from various denominations, the Faculty of Music and the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary of Wilfrid Laurier University, Royal Canadian College of Organists, Conrad Grebel University (Mennonite) of the University of Waterloo, community choirs, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the K-W Youth Symphony, and carefully selected guest speakers who animate the cause that is being supported and challenge the perspectives of those in attendance. Causes that have been addressed include Out of the Cold shelter for homeless people, Project Ploughshares peace initiatives, KAIROS environmental justice, and ISARC interfaith coalition that addresses poverty issues. With video clips, slides, and narrative, we outline the process that starts each year with a small representative planning committee and culminates in a weekend of workshops, rehearsals, and finally a public service featuring chamber choirs and a mass choral ensemble with a guest conductor. This presentation will address artistry and leadership, volunteering, partnerships, social justice, liturgy, and community building through choral music.
Research on the impact of this event is being launched, and future papers will report on the findings of Sing Fires of Justice.

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