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Canada’s House of Commons was the scene of a unique concert on October 1, 2012.

Momentum performs in the rotunda at Centre Block, House of Commons, in Ottawa.

Joanne McDonald

Southern Ontario’s Momentum Choir, a highly disciplined and talented group of more than 50 singers with developmental disabilities, was invited to perform for Members of Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario.

The choir’s executive and artistic director, Mendelt Hoekstra, was delighted at this opportunity for the Niagara-based choir, which he founded in 2007 with just eight members. Hoekstra is a member of Jubilee Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ontario. He said, “Momentum’s motto is belong. believe. inspire. This experience has given us another opportunity to prove this to be true. It has raised the stature of our choir to another level.”

The choir practices every week; they are professionally trained not only in music but also in behavior and performance. They perform about 10 concerts per year at local Christian high schools, churches, and other selected venues.

Hoekstra invited the audience to join them in singing a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” performed by soloist Sam Gates, a 23-year-old who has cerebral palsy. Hoekstra marveled at the significance of government representatives from across the country singing such an iconic song in an iconic building, led by a young adult who would typically be on the fringe of such circles.

“The moment the singers start singing,” he said, “they outshine their disability. [They] have a gift to share with the world.”

Jeff Wall, one of the choir’s soloists, summed up his experience: “It was awesome singing in the House of Commons. I didn’t think I could do it but I did it. Singing in the choir means I can share my voice that Mendelt says is good. I like going to places and showing our talents, because that’s what singing is.”

The invitation to perform in Ottawa was extended by St. Catharines Member of Parliament Rick Dykstra, who had heard about their increasing popularity in the region.

Dykstra said hearing the choir sing was an amazing experience and that all in attendance that day were blown away. “One word describes Momentum—ability!”

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