Celeb-Spotting At TikTok’s Favorite Community Choir

Cara Delevingne, a church in Bushwick, and a newfound sense of belonging.

Gaia Music Collective calls a concrete basement beneath a church in Bushwick home. Google Maps technically labels the space “Gymnopedie,” but when I arrive just past noon one recent Sunday afternoon, the only thing close to exercise there is a neon orange basketball hoop hovering in the center. The place is drafty with an odor that smells possibly bad for my health, but in 20 minutes, people will fill the room to sing as part of a 200-person choir. But I’m here for a different reason: to spot a celeb.

You’ve probably seen their TikToks in which a circle of “186 beautiful humans” delivers heavenly, multi-harmonic arrangements of Rihanna’s “Diamond” or Billie Eilish’s “When The Party Is Over.” That’s thanks to Gaia founder and Brooklyn-based artist Matt Goldstein, who first began hosting free, impromptu singing events in 2021 at his apartment. Years later, they’ve exploded, with millions of online views and media coverage touting the emotional benefits of group singing. I’d seen their videos but didn’t think much of it until a friend casually mentioned she’d spotted Cara Delevingne at the last event she’d gone to. Suddenly, my broken, celeb-obsessed brain was piqued: What was someone like Cara Delevingne doing in a basement in Bushwick? Could this be a new hotspot? I had to investigate.

So here I am, sitting on one of 10 folding chairs, alone, diligently watching people filter in. It’s a mixed crowd in nearly every manner: age, occupation, aesthetic (Bushwick beanies next to LES gym girls), and location. I chat up the woman next to me, Jen, another Gaia first-timer, who tells me she’s from Germany — though, during roll call, we find out someone traveled from Australia.

Today, our task is singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” which we are shepherded to do by choir director Kenter Davies, a gracefully lanky 20-something with the chirpy energy of a hummingbird. For the first hour, he leads us through vocal exercises; improvised, sing-songy “no means no” announcements (as a way to establish no one here has to do anything they don’t want to); and an ice-breaker involving naming your roses (highs), thorns (lows), and buds (what you’re looking forward to). (I’m grouped with a mother and daughter who wholesomely name each other as roses.) I’m not usually one to enthusiastically participate, but Davies has a strange pacifying influence. He then makes up a seven-part harmony on the spot for us to find which vocal group we belong to (I’m an alto 1).

Courtesy of Gaia Music Collective

Then the promised magic begins: somehow getting 200 people to sing this song at once and have it not sound like a mess. To get there, we are divided into even more groups (be prepared to love groups) to practice our individual sections. I can’t read sheet music, so I’m relieved when a woman in my cohort can and offers to teach us the notes. And after half an hour of trying to not horribly mangle my part, we finally run through the song together and I’m surprised by how … not bad it sounds. After the fourth or fifth time, with Davies’ coaching, I think even Stevie Nicks could be moved to tears by our rendition — some around me actually were.

In the end, I didn’t end up seeing a celeb (though founder Goldstein later confirms to me over a call that Cara Delevingne did attend, as has other high-profile people he declined to name). The closest I got to recognizing someone was an old yoga teacher from two studios ago. To be honest, I kind of forgot to even keep searching as I got caught up in — and maybe this is corny — the awe of what we were creating. Because beyond providing the healing, energizing effects of song, Gaia offers a place to convene, commune, and feel productive in the creation of something even if it’s temporary — especially if it’s temporary. Maybe that’s why, as I got on the bus home, I kept catching the eyes of the other singers — a reminder that, at least for one afternoon, we were all there together.