Cars at the Luminous Voices drive-in performance at the Max Bell Centre
  Cars at the Luminous Voices drive-in performance | Photo: Kenton Smith

Luminous Voices

By Meng Wei

There are two places in the world that any of us can deliver our best singing ever: the bathroom, and the car. They will never fail us. The potential is immense.

Now, imagine half of a parking lot is taken up by a choir in cars and the other half by an audience of cars, like the Pixar movie where there is a stage and the cars in the audience go crazy over a performance jumping up and down and honking their horns.


That came so close to reality in 2020.


David Newman, a music professor in the U.S. and a colleague of Luminous Voices’ founding director Timothy Shantz, successfully experimented with a technical setup for the pandemic. His solution allows a choir to sing together from their cars and hear each other through the radio without any delay. Luminous Voices is one of the professional choir ensembles utilizing it and bringing concerts to people in cars.  

Luminous Voices in stage before COVID-10
  Photo: Bandi Szakony

“It’s amazing to hear,” says Meghan Goguen, the general manager of Luminous Voices.


“You’re sitting there, and people are honking their applause and just the feeling of being in that place… you get a feeling of community in that moment.”


When the pandemic disrupted their busy season, Luminous Voices explored what they might be able to do while artists, although they could still have online workshops, didn’t know when they could get together and make music again.


The car choir was one way to sweep away the isolation that was looming over everyone’s head. It recalled an essential part of our “old normal” for both the artists and the audience.

“One person brought her newborn baby, and she said ‘this was amazing, I was able to enjoy this concert without worrying about my baby. I was able to breastfeed in the middle of a concert and not miss a single thing.’ We also had somebody who said that they brought their child who is autistic, and they didn’t have to worry about sensory overload.”


“Calgary Arts Development has been our biggest supporter this year, and we are so grateful. CADA has just given us that freedom to take risks and be bold and to say, we need to share our music with the community. And it has worked out brilliantly.”


Art and creativity is that one thing that we always sought to make joy within hardship, and it never fails because it’s crucial, irreplaceable, priceless, and essential.


“This is a beacon of hope in a really dark time. This is a balm for our nerves. And it is amazing to see that people are still making music.” 

A black and white photo of Luminous Voices before COVID-19
  Photo: Jason Lee