Penn State’s “Essence of Joy” concert (St. Michae’ls College, March 4, 2012)

How does one chorus say “Happy Birthday” to another chorus?  By giving a concert for them, of course.

Essence of Joy, an ensemble from Penn State University under the direction of Anthony Thomas Leach will celebrate the Essex Children’s Choir 25th anniversary in concert  on March 4, 3 p.m., at St. Michaels College McCarthy Arts Center.

Many Vermont music fans were introduced to Dr. Leach as choral director for the 84th annual Vermont All State Musical Festival, held May 4-7, 2011, in St Albans.  In a short time, Mr. Leach built rapport with high school singers from all over the state and formed them into a unit that delighted audience and singer alike and “rocked” the cavernous Collins-Perley Sports Complex.

Now, in Essence of Joy, Vermonters will see the quality of music Dr. Leach fosters with young singers over an extended period of time.  Organized in November 1991 by Dr. Leach, the ensemble performs sacred and secular music from African and African American traditions.  It has released five compact disc recordings, (available for purchase at the concert.)

At Penn State, Dr. Leach teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in choral music education and directs The University Choir, as well as Essence of Joy.  Before Penn State, he taught in Maryland and New York City.  His choirs have performed widely in the United States, Europe, Asia, and South Africa.  Dr. Leach also has extensive experience as guest conductor for choral festivals, including the 2004 World Youth Choir in South Korea.  He has presented seminars and workshops for many professional music organizations and is a past national chair of the American Choral Directors Association Repertoire and Standards Committee on Multicultural & Ethnic Perspectives.

Dr. Leach’s commitment to and expertise in choral music education makes him and his ensemble a particularly appropriate group for Constance J. Price to invite to Vermont to contribute to the 25th anniversary-year celebration of her Essex Children’s Choir of Vermont, a model for children’s music education that has enriched the lives of children throughout Vermont and the United States.

The Essex Children’s Choir was formed in 1985 when former students from Essex Middle School approached Ms. Price, their music teacher, and asked her to continue working with them.  Since the beginning, the program has nurtured musical understanding and voice production, incorporating principles of Hungarian composer, Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967).  It emphasizes the use of the folk song tradition and children’s natural proclivities for repetition and movement.

During its quarter century, the Essex Children’s Choir has  collaborated with artists nationally and locally, including its own alumni/ae and Heidi Soons, harpist. Karen Reed, accompanist, has been with the Essex Children’s Choir from its inception.  The Choir has performed at international, national, and Vermont conferences; on National and Vermont Public Radio; and on local television. Its annual Twelfth Night program, held in early January, has become for many in the community a profoundly special way to end the holiday season.

The Essence of Joy concert will be held at the McCarthy Arts Center, Saint Michael’s College, Sunday, March 4th at 3 p.m.   Tickets are $10.00 ($7.00 student) and will be sold at the door.  The concert is sponsored by the Fine Arts Department at Saint Michael’s College. For more info call 863-9161.

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