December 18, 1997 in Features

Angelic Voices Spokane Children’s Chorus To Perform Christmas Concert

William Berry Correspondent
 

If you believe in angels, this concert is for you. If you don’t but are willing to give a go at suspending your disbelief, this concert is also for you. If you can’t even imagine angels and don’t want to try, then just change your name to Ebenezer and stay home.

Children singing is about as angelic as it gets in this life, and this is the appropriate season for angels to make pronouncements. Befitting the aforementioned tidings, the Spokane Area Children’s Chorus will present two Christmas concerts this weekend.

The chorus is actually four choruses, with a combined membership of 180 girls and boys. Children are admitted to the groups by audition, and they advance through the various levels based on their ability and commitment. The divisions are the Junior Choir, Concert Choir, Senior Choir and the elite Ensemble.

Commitment is a big word for the children involved, and probably for their parents as well. While they seem to enjoy performing, they have to put in plenty of time and hard work to reach the standard of quality expected of them.

I caught up with a couple of the choristers on a break at the Spokane Symphony Christmas show and grilled them with the usual hard-ball questions. My informants were Katie Moreau and Nicholas Strasser. Both are 12 years old, in seventh grade (both for the first time - bright kids) and members of the Ensemble.

Moreau said that this is her fifth year in the chorus. “I auditioned for the Junior Choir when I was in the second grade,” she said. “If I remember, I wanted to do it for myself because a friend of mine was in the chorus.”

Strasser has been a member for three years. His story is that his mom had a friend whose daughters were in, and that is how he got started.

He describes the work through the eyes of a devotee. “We spend 5-1/2 hours or more each week with the chorus. We have voice lessons, music theory and sectionals. It is good for kids to be in it. It requires you to pay attention, and teaches you respect and discipline. I like choir because it has always been a place I can go and sing and not worry about anything. I always feel happy when I come out - it’s a spirit-lifter.”

Moreau likes to sing and thinks the chorus is fun because she gets to meet new people and go places, like singing with the American Boy Choir from New Jersey. And she definitely agreed on the discipline part: “You have to be responsible. If you mess up in the concert, you will make a fool of yourself in front of everybody.”

Both of these young people sang on the chorus’ new album, a Christmas CD entitled “The Children’s Gift of Grace.” You have to realize that for five nights back in June, there were a bunch of kids working their fannies off on Christmas carols. Recording can be nerve-wracking enough even for pros, but these singers seemed to weather the hardships with aplomb.

Strasser: “It was difficult because we had to sing some things over and over.”

Moreau: “And it was frustrating sometimes because we had to stand there forever waiting for cars to go by.”

They both agreed that the hardest thing to record was “Art Thou Troubled,” a Handel aria. Moreau said, “It was hard because you have to get the vowels and the volume just right.”

But John Rutter’s “Star Carol” must have gone smoothly. “We did it at 10 o’clock at night,” Strasser said, “and we did one take. I don’t think they even had to edit it.”

The resultant CD is now available at several local stores and from the Spokane Area Children’s Chorus office. It is a fine effort and weighs in several notches above the kind of recording that is made just to sell to parents so they can remember how cute Johnny was before he was old enough to wreck the car. This is a CD that is enjoyable without any connection to the artists other than a pride that they exist in Spokane.

There are a couple of selections in which my picky ears find fault with intonation. This is the sort of thing that would not be bothersome in a live performance, but under the scrutiny of repeated hearings becomes more noticeable.

One other negative: It is definitely personal taste and I apologize to nature-lovers, but when I cranked the “Whalesong” with its recordings of humpbacks, I thought my dog was singing along. I realize we are in the minority, but he and I could have lived without that.

The heart-rending, cute and touching moments are plenty, though, including “One Little Candle,” “Mid-Winter,” “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” and the famous tune from the Peanuts special, “Christmastime is Here.”

The concerts, conducted by music director Tamara Schupman, will feature much of the music on the recording plus other holiday hits. The children will be accompanied by harpist Leslie Stratton Norris as well as organ, piano and the occasional flute.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT The Spokane Area Children’s Chorus will perform “A Traditional Winter Concert” on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Westminster Congregational Church, 411 S. Washington. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children, available at the door or from the chorus office at 624-7992.

This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT The Spokane Area Children’s Chorus will perform “A Traditional Winter Concert” on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Westminster Congregational Church, 411 S. Washington. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children, available at the door or from the chorus office at 624-7992.


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