Winnipeg nurses’ choir offers music as medicine in season’s first concert

The Winnipeg nurses’ choir held its first concert of the season, turning music into medicine for their adoring attendees.

Bill Quinn, conductor of the choir, formed the group in 2018 after retiring from a career teaching music.

Quinn says the group started out with 17 singing nurses — a number which has only grown, as the choir now has 30 members.

He led Sunday’s concert at the United Church in Meadowood, which featured music from Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel, as well as gospel and Christmas music.

“Something for everybody,” he told Weekend Morning Show host Keisha Paul during a Saturday interview.

Woman smiles behind a mask in a building lobby.
Jinn Kee has been singing in choirs since high school, and so the Winnipeg Nurses’ Choir was a natural fit. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Jinn Kee, a clinical education facilitator at the University of Manitoba, is one of the choristers. 

She has been singing in choirs since high school, and says her love of music keeps her coming back to the nurses’ choir.

“I knew I had to join right away,” she told Weekend Morning Show host Keisha Paul.

Her favourite audiences have been residents of personal care homes, she says, who light up when they hear live music.

Although Kee cannot always make it to choir practice every week, she says she loves to create connections through music.

“I just try my best and remember that I enjoy music, and this is good for my mental health and the community.”

Kee believes that music is another language, and says it is an honour to be involved with the nurses’ choir.

“We get to sing as nurses, representing the profession and caring for the public in that way,” she said.

“I think it’s one of the most wonderful healing powers that music has.”

Person playing piano in foreground, choir and conductor behind, all wearing masks.
Conductor Bill Quinn leads the Winnipeg Nurses’ Choir through their first concert of the season on Sunday. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Quinn says he likes the thrill of being with nurses who love to sing, and the choir hasn’t had trouble finding more.

“We now have enough nurses that, whether they’re working or not…. we can keep going with the nurses that we’ve got now,” he said.

Like Kee, Quinn says the reactions from residents in personal care homes have stood out to him.

“I think we really make a difference in their lives, so that’s the reason why we do it.”