By Charlotte Bumstead
It's never too late to sing and dance on stage in front of a live audience. This is only part of the appeal for boomers participating in Canada Sings—the new Global TV show where workplace glee clubs battle it out head-to-head. Another motive is the prize money—a sum of $10,000 to go toward the charity of their choice. The show—to air this summer—brings together teachers, hospital staff, flight attendants, zookeepers, firemen, policemen, and the list goes on. Each group performs a rehearsed routine to be critiqued by the celebrity judging panel: Canadian singer-songwriter Jann Arden, along with Vanilla Ice and Pierre Bouvier (lead singer of Simple Plan).
“This whole show harkens back to a real variety show, you know, Donny and Marie and Sonny and Cher...when there were comedy skits, dancing and singing,” Arden says in an interview with Zoomer, following a live taping of the show. “[Canada Sings] has all those elements, [in addition to] the great back story.” Each team has been rehearsing their routine for anywhere from two to six weeks prior to performing on stage under the bright lights, with costumes and props. One group in particular, The Toronto Fire Services, range in age from 28 to 65 years young, but they are all performing for a similar reason. The firemen aim to donate their winnings to Camp Bucko—a program providing opportunities for children recovering from severe burn injuries.
When it comes to previous experience in such recital, these individuals boast little to none. Nerves are in high abundance—a sensation Arden personally relates to. Even after eight Juno Awards and years of touring, the Calgary-born singer suffers from ongoing health concerns in relation to anxiety caused by stage fright. But each Canada Sings competitor has followed their own momentous journey to lead them here. No matter the initial fear or scepticism, they walk off the stage with a glowing sense of pride, courage and accomplishment. “You're going to be blown away by what these people can do,” says Arden. “And I think people from home will cheer them on for all these reasons; because it's about the everyday hero, and doing things for your community.”
“Singing is good for your soul—singing and dancing—and that's what these people are showing the rest of the country with the show; that it feels good to learn something new, it feels good to do something you didn't think you'd be able to do,” she says. “And I don't care who you are, you have talent. You have possibility.” The show was also a fresh opportunity for Arden, who turned 49 in March. She had no training in hosting or being a TV judge but wanted to try something new and thought Canada Sings sounded like fun.
“You hear about people all the time, Julia Childs, for instance—she didn't start cooking or doing anything with food until she was 40-years-old,” says Arden, who didn't sign her record deal with A&M Records until she was 30. She was simply singing in bars to save money for her teaching degree until someone suggested she further explore her musical talent. “You do not know how life is going to turn out,” she says. “You just have to keep going and keep re-inventing yourself.”
For many participants, the glee club competition is another bullet they have crossed off their bucket list. For Arden, it's another adventure in her daily life. “I don't have a bucket list. I guess maybe I should, but you know what, I always tell my friends that I live my life in one day,” Arden says. “I'm always willing to try anything and I'm very spontaneous. I'm a shitty golfer, but I golf. You know, I'll fly to Vegas for a weekend with girlfriends to play poker badly and watch strippers,and stuff like that. Yeah, I live it all the time. I don't say some day—the day is now.”
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