The Kettle Choir is an arts program that helps individuals who are living with mental health challenges regain visibility and rediscover their voices in a safe space. We spoke with Coreen Douglas, Organizer & Producer of The Kettle Choir, to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
The Kettle Choir began in 2015 as a collaboration between The Kettle Society and Vancouver Opera. The Kettle Choir is an arts program that helps individuals who are living with mental health challenges regain visibility and rediscover their voices in a safe space. The Kettle Choir builds on research showing that arts programs help vulnerable individuals build strength, empowerment, and resilience.
What problem does it aim to solve?
The Kettle Society’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for individuals living with mental illness. We do this by providing advocacy, housing, employment, and community services; offering opportunities to gather and access compassionate assistance; supporting recovery for those living with mental illness and substance use challenges; promoting mental health in the community; and promoting inclusion of individuals living with mental illness in all aspects of society.
We serve a community of 6,000+ vulnerable individuals each year, manage 400+ units of supportive housing, and operate a mental health drop-in centre that provides meals every day of the year. We also provide a range of community services including legal advocacy, homeless outreach, a health clinic, and supported employment.
When did you start/join it?
I received a surprising phone call in 2016: “Can you come over to Vancouver Opera to discuss forming a Kettle Society choir?” Of course, I said “yes”. What an opportunity for Kettle members to showcase their artistic talents, share their stories in their own voices, and for more Vancouverites to hear about The Kettle’s charitable work. I learned that our choir would be starring in a new operetta called, Requiem for a Lost Girl — about missing and murdered women, not often a theme for opera. Luckily, my boss Nancy said yes too, phew!
What made you want to get involved?
Research shows that art, creativity and right-brain activities are very pronounced in people living with mental health disabilities. Right-brain activity can help with recovery and positive outcomes for individuals. The stigma of mental illness, of being unhoused, and poverty can lead to isolation and alienation – equating to a kind of social death.
A public choir and creative writing group, in collaboration with Vancouver Opera, would give Kettle artists an outlet and visibility for their talent. It would help with recovery, and create community and a feeling of pride for the artists.
What was the situation like when you started?
As the former Director of Development, I organized our annual Art Against Stigma show, so I knew The Kettle had some very talented artists. Its quarterly talent show showcased some amazing singers. But opportunities to showcase that talent publicly were limited. Vancouver Opera offered a very large stage for Kettle artists, an exciting opportunity for them and for The Kettle. I knew that choir members’ lives would be changed forever through this partnership and experience.
How has it changed since?
Two major shows with Vancouver Opera later, and many public performances at the BC Legislature, a BCNU conference, malls and Kettle fundraisers, the choir is rebuilding. The choir survived the pandemic shutdown, and now we have a brand-new show coming up – our first public performance in four years! So Much More explores choir members’ relationship to Vancouver, with songs and stories of resilience and joy in finally being together again and singing in front of an audience.
What more needs to be done?
The Kettle Choir survives on a shoestring budget and needs more funding. We are interested in new partnerships with music and artistic groups in Vancouver. We would love more opportunities to perform – so hit us up! As Carole, our talented solo artist and choir member puts it, “It’s more important than ever to share our voices and our stories and to inspire joy in as many people as possible.”
How can our readers help?
Readers can make donations to The Kettle Choir.
Do you have any events coming up?
The Kettle Choir is returning after a four-year hiatus with an original production titled So Much More. Through music and original writings by Kettle Choir members, the show explores metamorphosis, change and resilience, reflecting choir members’ own experiences with being unhoused, being in recovery, and living with mental health challenges.
The performance will take place on May 26, 2023, from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm at the Martha Lou Henley Rehearsal Hall. Admission to the event is free but donations are appreciated.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
Megaphone Magazine. It features the voices of unhoused and marginalized Vancouver citizens. It is also sold on the streets for extra income by individuals who were previously unhoused. Megaphone featured The Kettle Choir twice – thanks guys, you rock!