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It is never too late: Armande Martine tells her story of finding her voice and community

Everything shifted in 2012. Personally, it was a transformational year. I came out as a lesbian at 53 years of age. It was positive and life altering and it is never too late to live an authentic life. My RHP story coincides with that joyful event. I hope the recounting of it will inspire others in a similar life situation.

As much as I had made a decision to live in the closet, I decided late in life to live fully as myself. Immediately, I joined two organizations within the Winnipeg LGBTQ community – Outwords (the now-defunct community magazine) and Rainbow Harmony Project.

Martine walking with her partner and RHP at her first Pride parade (from behind she is the one with black hair, her partner wearing hat & with dog).

During that first year, I walked in the Pride parade with RHP members and my partner. Those were exciting times filled with new adventures. I felt fully alive. Finally, I felt I belonged. Being around other RHP members, I could be myself. With support from my new life partner and RHP members, I embarked on one audacious self-exploration adventure after another.

Most of my adult life, I had sung in a church choir. I always placed myself in the soprano section even though my voice is in the alto range. I felt it would be easier since sopranos usually sing the melody. As I proceeded on this path of courage, why not try singing as an alto, I thought? Turns out, singing in your range is much easier especially as your voice deepens with age. Who knew? Once again, a truer fit leading to a better experience.

Although I enjoy contributing to the choir as an alto, my preference is promoting the choir behind the scene whenever the occasion presents itself. I tried my hand at writing and used this newly acquired skill to advertise our choir concerts. Articles promoting our queer choir were published around the city.

Next, I learned to use recording software for podcasts, etc. With that newly acquired competence, I created a promotional audio recording that aired on CJNU. Publicly aired ahead of a family-themed concert, I proudly chronicled a young lesbian couple’s journey into ‘familyhood.’ My goal was to utilize my new skill set to advocate for and normalize the LGBTQ experience.

Martine (in the blonde wig) performing at Martha my Dear fundraiser.

Together our choir members make beautiful music. I have teared up, on more than one occasion, listening to the sound of our collective harmony while standing on stage. The message of inclusivity conveyed in song appeals to my social justice warrior side.

I have many good memories of my time with the choir pre-pandemic. We have had a few artistic directors and, currently, we are led by Brittany Mielnichuk who has patiently brought the sound up another notch. For a couple of years, we had a production director who taught us choreography to accompany songs. Especially fun and memorable was movement to South African music and song.

Rainbow Harmony Project continues to have Zoom get-togethers although the pandemic has altered our regular practices and in-person concerts are not possible. To much acclaim, we were the first choir in the city to produce a successful online concert. Kudos to our choir leaders led by Brittany who put in copious amounts of time and effort to achieve this impressive first. It paid off, literally, obtaining needed financial support for the year.

My contribution to our community choir, over the years, has been advocating for our LGBTQ2* members in word as well as in song. I hope to experience at least another season post-pandemic of doing both.

Martine singing with RHP at the 20th Anniversary concert.

Are you considering becoming a member of Rainbow Harmony Project? We've been meeting virtually during COVID, but we promise we'll be meeting in person when it's safe to do so. Take a look at our options or consider donating to help ensure future generations have a choir they can be a part of.


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