The fifth annual New Hampshire Master Chorale Children’s Chorus Festival brought more than 60 young singers to Plymouth on October 15 for a day of musical fun, learning, and performance.
“It went super-well,” says Lisa Cooper, who led this year’s festival, which is sponsored by the New Hampshire Master Chorale. “The students had great energy throughout the entire day. They were very focused throughout the whole rehearsal process, and the results were really special.”
Cooper is a music teacher at Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., and a Master Chorale soprano. She says the Children’s Chorus Festival gives youngsters a unique opportunity to learn and perform high-quality music with peers from other towns, mentored by experienced adult choral singers.
Participants were fourth, fifth and sixth-graders from Manchester, Rumney, Wentworth, Hampton, Holderness, Piermont, Waterville Valley and other towns.
At the end of the day the young singers performed with the New Hampshire Master Chorale, a group of dedicated adult singers that has been performing a varied repertoire of choral music at a high level since 2003. Its music director is Dan Perkins, director of choral music at Plymouth State University.
Festival participants also heard the Plymouth Regional High School Chamber Singers directed by Will Gunn, a Master Chorale tenor. Some of the Plymouth high school students are alumni of the Children’s Chorus Festival.
The young singers “really seemed connected by being part of a multi-generational chorus and seeing what they could do in the future,” Cooper reports. “They got to see what they could do right away when they go into high school and after college when they’re adults – lifelong choral experience right before their eyes.”
Melody Wooster from Campton says she was inspired to continue singing. “I’m definitely going to keep doing music in the future,” she said at the end of the day. “A big part of this was the Master Chorale – just seeing people to look up to who also keep singing and doing things like this.”
The Festival experience can have a lasting effect, says Gretchen Dodge of Campton, who sings with the Plymouth Regional High School Chamber Singers. “As a high schooler looking back, I can see just how helpful it was,” she says. “Coming from a small middle school, the Chorus Festival allowed me to meet other kids who loved music as much as I did.”
Meeting the adult singers of the Master Chorale, she adds, “gave me a lot of hope and inspiration that I could do that one day.”
Several hundred youngsters have participated in the Festival since its founding in 2011. Cooper says some of this year’s participants were veterans of three or four previous Festivals. “We had nine kids who had been there more than two times,” she says.
Participants learned and performed songs with an animal theme -- settings of poetry by Emily Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Amy Lowell and Christina Rosetti. During rehearsals they discussed the meaning of the poetry, learning it in a way they don’t get to do in English class.
The most popular song, Cooper says, was a rhythmically complicated 19th-century African-American dance reel called “Chicken on a Fencepost” that got everybody clapping and dancing.
A.J. Coppola, a Campton music teacher and Master Chorale tenor who helped found the Children’s Chorus Festival, says the experience fosters “a different kind of teamwork” than competitive sports – the only other group activity many students engage in. “The larger goal of the Children’s Chorus Festival is to create a community through music,” Coppola says.
The New Hampshire Music Festival and The Publow Fund for Music are co-sponsor’s of the Children’s Chorus Festival and JustRy’s Bakery, owned by two Master Chorale singers, donated baked goods for snacks.
The New Hampshire Master Chorale will continue their season by offering their fall performance of Eve, Absinthe, Alice: A World Premiere by Oliver Caplan on Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20 in Concord and Plymouth, NH. More details and tickets are available at www.nhmasterchorale.org.
The New Hampshire Master Chorale, led by Dr. Dan Perkins, is a non-profit choir established in the spring of 2003. This premier chamber ensemble is dedicated to excellence in the art of choral music performance. Members of the group are trained singers, auditioned from throughout New England, who have performed as soloists and in choral ensembles throughout the world. You can get a taste of the NHMC on our SoundCloud page or find us on Facebook and Twitter.