Brittany Mielnichuk is the artistic director of Rainbow Harmony Project (RHP), Winnipeg’s LGBTQ2*community choir. Recently, she was nominated for a Manitoba LGBT* Chamber of Commerce award as "an individual who is making a significant contribution to MB’s LGBTQ2* communities."
Mielnichuk joined RHP in 2017 as assistant director to Justin Odwak, fulfilling a couple of objectives.
"Directing a community choir had been one of my goals from a young age. I’ve also always had an interest in social justice issues. When RHP was looking for an assistant director, it was perfect timing to combine both of these things in my life," she said.
Mielnichuk took the baton during RHP’s transition years. Having gained a footprint in the music community meant an increased number of non LGBTQ2* members were registering to sing in the non-auditioned choir. There were concerns the song repertoire with its activist message would be lost.
Invaluable for the choir during Mielnichuk’s apprentice year was how she spent it listening to the membership, maintaining choir unity.
"I would honestly say that my main strategy is to treat everyone with respect…and to provide opportunities for community building," she said. "I dove right in not only musically but also with board and committee work so that I could understand the choir’s background."
Giver her strong musical background, choristers felt reassured under Mielnichuk’s direction. Impressed by her firm and understanding leadership, the choir gave their best, resulting in a notched-up musical sound.
RHP president Karyn Kumhyr is effusive in her appreciation of Mielnichuk’s multiple talents, especially apparent during the pandemic.
"She has not only guided the choir musically, she has applied for grants, she has been our audio mixer, she has worked on video, she has done graphic design," Kumhyr said.
Kumhyr watched as the director helped build up the LGBTQ2*community, providing workshops for members.
"Most importantly, she has been a key person in outreach in the community. She recognized at the beginning of the pandemic that RHP is not just about the music. It is also about serving the marginalized community to which we belong," said Kumhyr.
Last year, the choir pivoted to a digital platform. Thanks to expertise within its ranks and under Mielnichuk’s guidance, a successful concert was live-streamed on YouTube.
A small in-house concert entitled Queer as Folk will be held on Dec. 4 at Immanuel United Church. As a welcoming gesture, the affirming congregation painted a rainbow on a church wall where choristers practice weekly.
Tickets will be available from RHP members and the concert will also be live streamed.
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Armande Bourgeois Martine is a correspondent for Crescentwood. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org