Last Sunday afternoon (May 22) I was privileged to attend a performance of the Essex Children’s Chorus under the direction of Connie Price, its present director and founder. What a lovely afternoon of music it was, and even more special because of the addition of The Boys Chorus of Charlotte Central School with their director Allyson Ledoux. If you have not recently attended one of these performances, I suggest that you get yourself to the next one and see and hear the work of these children and their director. Beautiful sound, often perfect intonation, beautifully balanced chords and pure tone with no vibrato are just a few of the things that play on the ear. The silence during the performance is calming, and absolutely necessary in order to appreciate the beauty of the sound that is emanating from the stage. It should also come as no surprise that none of this is by chance, or magic or natural; it is the result of hard work and serious music education that must ta kes place at each rehearsal.
Everything about this performance suggested the joy of singing, respect for each other and their director, the love of the literature and a pride that was confident in each singer. In the brochure that was at the ticket table it introduced the Fundamentals of Choir with five bulleted phrases.
* Welcoming children who love to sing, boys and girls grades 2 and higher.
* A unique program using an aural approach through a sequential curriculum to build a foundation for learning the language of music, voice training
and artistic expression.
* An introduction to vocal and choral training for young people.
* A music education-based program designed to bring out the best in young people.
* Children experience a wealth of music literature representing various styles and traditions, including the “Roots of Jazz.”
Well, this kind of choral and vocal music education is what we would all want for our students, and judging from what I heard I would say that these principles are taken seriously by both the students and the director! The opening five selections were a Welcome Canon from Southern Harmony, O Lovely Peace, With Plenty Crowned of George Frederick Handel, Panis Angelicus by Cesar Franck, Two Bicinias and Ladybird of Zoltan Kodaly. These selections were delivered with a beauty of tone, a steadiness of rhythm and pulse and attention to intonation that is seldom heard in our area. I could describe it in several paragraphs, but would rather just say that it was an auditory pleasure of the highest order.
Also in the brochure it was stated that the participants work in an environment of active participation and music making, working on the following:
* Healthy vocal development
* Pulse, rhythm and movement
* Pitch and melodic awareness
* Listening and focus
* Creative thinking
* Pulse, rhythm and language
* Memory and inner-hearing
* Respect for self and others
I must say that each and every one of these phrases was on display during the performance, both from an auditory and visual point of view. It is obvious to this listener that each singer had training in these areas and demonstrated that the aims and goals touted by this program are being diligently and professionally attended to. Selections on the rest of the program contained a variety of literature that showed the excellent training that these children are receiving. I was so impressed with one recitation by a young man, done from memory, with EXCELLENT diction and enunciation, delivered professionally and confidently. Indeed, the entire program was delivered from memory without a hint of insecurity! I was moved when Allyson Ledoux’s boys choir (some 12-18 singers?) walked on stage and sang with the rest of the choir Ken Berg’s arrangement of This Little Light of Mine. I so wished we could convince more schools, and more directors and more parents to get their yo ung men involved in singing at an early age in this manner.
Especially impressive was an arrangement of Mrs.Price of Ezekiel Saw De Wheel, with some difficult chords. There was a very healthy crowd in attendance, and they were all supportive of the work that was demonstrated on stage. From time to time Connie made some comments that were appropriate in helping us understand what was going on, and it was also obvious that Connie takes great pride in each and every student in her charge. She loves what she does and it shows at all times. Kudos should also go to Karen Reed for her sensitive accompaniments and professional demeanor. If I could have asked for anything more it would have been a listing of the students names on the program for identification!
Long live the Essex Children’s Chorus, and continued success to Connie Price for her vaulable work.