My name is Val Wilkins and I have the special distinction of being the founder of AVIVA. I moved from Vancouver to Nanaimo in 2003 and really missed that there was no lesbian choir. I had sung in A Vancouver Women’s Chorus (AVWC) for at least 12 years and loved it. To meet my need and to fill what I saw as a need in the Nanaimo lesbian community I decided I’d just have to start a choir myself. I figured that if I found a conductor, a pianist, a practice space and then singers we’d have ourselves a choir.
Firstly I contacted Laurie Munroe who I’d sung Alto II with in AVWC and who I knew was already leading a lesbian choir in the Qualicum/Courtney area. I was thrilled she agreed to conduct if I did all the other foot work to get a choir organized. So I got to work recruiting! I remember well the fun I had using a joke we had in Vancouver’s lesbian choir about being tops or bottoms: Sopranos or Altos. Basically I started to hand out flyers and ask every woman I met if they were a top or a bottom. If they simply looked puzzled and/or were speechless I’d then ask them if they wanted to be a top or a bottom!?!? This always seemed to hook them! Who knew. Of course then I’d explain the choral connection and there would be much laughter and perhaps a wee bit of flirting.
Many women seemed to be interested so once space was booked at Forest Park School, Chelsea Peckett was contracted as accompanist and the start date set for September 13, 2005, Laurie and I waited with bated breath to see how many would show up. Suffice it to say we had a great turnout and through word of mouth we grew and grew. It became clear we were meeting a need in the community. I ended up moving back to Vancouver a year later but Laurie stayed on and the choir flourished. I’m so proud to say …the rest is history!
It turns out I returned to live in Nanaimo Spring 2015 and yes, I’m back in the choir. And recruitment continues. Some things have changed … we are now open to all LGBTQ folks and Allies, but some things never change … we are still looking for tops and bottoms!!! Do come out and join us in music and merriment. I’m glad I did.
AVIVA Chorus – Celebrating the diversity of the LGBTIQ2+ Community