GA Children’s Choir sings tonight, Sunday
Every three or four years participants at General Assembly are treated to the gift of a children’s choir. This is that year. At 7 p.m. Saturday, just before the Ware Lecture, 74 children will present a half-hour concert. Then Sunday night they will sing at the closing ceremony with the adult GA choir.
Since Wednesday these 10-to-12-year-olds have been in camp at Macalester College in St. Paul, across the river from the convention center. Audition tapes earned them a spot in the choir. Twice a day Music Director Janeal Krehbiel lines them up in a rehearsal hall and they work on their music. A third daily rehearsal is for sectional groups.
When they are not rehearsing they have plenty of other diversions. There are daily workshops on drama, sculpting clay, and making crafts. There is swimming and basketball at the college recreation center. Today there is a trip to a zoo. They also did a service project, donating more than 100 books to Books for Africa. That project included a visit by an African drumming group and a chance to try drumming themselves.
Annease Hastings, music director for the Bull Run Unitarian Universalists at Manassas, Virginia, is the GA Children’s Choir camp coordinator, meaning that she gets to organize bus transportation, meals, and other challenges that come with keeping track of this many bright and active children. “I am running a little short on sleep,” she said Friday afternoon.
Hastings has the distinction of being involved with all four of the GA Children’s Choirs. The first was in Nashville in 2000, then Boston, 2003, St. Louis, 2006, and now Minneapolis.
“It’s a labor of love,” she said. “I see what it does for these kids. We’re growing future UUs.” She added, “What we hear every year is that the kids say this is one of the first times they’ve come into contact with this many other UUs outside of their church, or it’s the first place where they’re truly accepted by everyone. That, and the power of making music together, makes this week very special for them, and for us.”
Krehbiel is a longtime choir director. For the past 10 years she has directed the Lawrence Children’s Choir, Lawrence, Kansas. “Every child can learn to sing,” she said. “Through singing they learn to express joy and how it feels to sing really well. Doing this is my passion. I like helping kids strive for perfection.”
Accompanist for the choir is Carol Caouette, of White Bear UU Church, Mahtomedi, Minn.
Jan Chamberlin, music director for Eliot Unitarian Chapel, Kirkwood, Mo., is program director for the children’s choir program. She said 106 children auditioned. Judging was by three UU music directors. Chamberlin began two years ago with preparations that are culminating this week. “I am repeatedly asked why this does not happen more frequently,” she said. “My answer is time and money. It takes a lot of prep time, energy and resources.” The choir is partly funded with grants from the UU Funding Panel.
Kalina Hertfeld, 12, from the UU Church of Greater Lansing, Michigan, said, “It’s really cool, especially because I didn’t know many UUs outside my church before I came here. We have a really great teacher and we’ve improved a ton. I like all the music a lot.”
Connor Vine, 11, of the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship in Illinois, who was asked how challenging the week was for him, observed, “I’d say the camp is between medium and hard. My voice gets so worn out. I like being able to socialize with everyone. I’m going to be really bummed to go home.”
Zoe McCartney, 10, of Jefferson Unitarian Church, Golden, Colorado, said, “I just love music. The best part of this week is we’ll just be walking somewhere or eating a meal and someone will just randomly burst out in song and everyone else just joins in.”
Learn more about the children’s choir and see photos of their activities on the UU Childrens’ Choir blog, here.
(The paragraph referring to Jan Chamberlin was added after the initial article was posted.)