Common Thread was born during a casual conversation in June 1998 around a patio table in Sue Goldberg’s garden. Ellen Long shared with Sue and Eve Goldberg and Bob Biderman her dream of seeing a community social-justice choir in Toronto. As these four social, music and activist friends chatted the possibilities emerged, and enthusiasm grew.
That first informal chat was followed by a full year of visioning and planning during which the founders sought advice from other choirs, contacted composers and arrangers, found a rehearsal home at Cecil Community Centre, and attracted potential members through creative outreach. In the spring of 1999, the founding committee of Ellen Long, Eve Goldberg, Sue Goldberg, Christine Almeida, Bob Biderman and Jessica Ringrose (a group whose collective experience includes community organizing, popular education, choral and community singing, folk music traditions, and social activism) chose Isabel Bernaus to be Common Thread’s first conductor. An accomplished and talented musician and gifted music educator, Isabel has helped Common Thread establish a solid musical and community foundation.
In September 1999, the degree to which Common Thread struck a chord in Toronto was evidenced when, to everyone’s amazement, over 100 people walked through the doors of Cecil Community Centre for the first rehearsal. The planners had known for many weeks that the numbers would be greater than they had originally anticipated, but were both thrilled and overwhelmed by the turnout. A choir of over 100 however, was not feasible, so 70 were accepted via a random draw and they formed the first year’s choir. The others were put on a list of “singers in waiting” and helped form the “fifth section” of volunteers.