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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Finding harmony amid pandemic: Crescendo Community youth choirs follow safety rules so they can gather in song

Sixth-grader Kate Eddy sings during a Crescendo Community Chorus practice at Holy Names Music Center on Monday. The choir has stayed afloat during the pandemic by creatively adapting to challenges while social distancing and maintaining other health precautions.  (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

They may be small, but the half-dozen members of Crescendo Community Chorus’ concert choir still make a big sound.

Their sweet harmonies fill Holy Names Music Center on Monday evenings, even though their voices are filtered through cloth masks.

The group’s two choirs (concert and prep) are able to meet during COVID thanks to the ample space at the center’s recital hall, and they follow strict protocol. Student’s temperatures are taken upon entry, hand sanitizer applied, masks stay on, and the children and director remain 9-feet apart while singing. With just six members in concert choir and five in prep, Crescendo is well within the governor’s guidelines of 15 students in an indoor setting.

“I love singing with other people,” said Fiona Kelly, 12. “Especially during COVID it was nice to be able to stay connected.”

Stacia Cammarano took over the reins as artistic director last fall, after the retirement of longtime director Sharon Smith.

“I grew up singing,” said Cammarano, who is also the choral director at Shadle Park High School. “I joined a community choir because I couldn’t stop singing. Teaching choir is a way to sing every day.”

Crescendo Community Chorus has had a variety of names since its inception at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in 2002. It was originally known as the South Hill Children’s Chorus under the direction of Lynn M. Brinckmeyer.

When she left in 2006, Sharon Smith took over, broadening the group’s reach and rebranding it as Kinderchoir of Spokane, a 501(c)(3).

In 2013, the organization became Crescendo Community Chorus, but its goal to be affordable and inclusive remained the same.

“Our mission is to be accepting of all groups and abilities,” Cammarano said. “No student is turned away.”

Board member Jurene Phaneuf said the board worried about Crescendo’s survival during the pandemic.

“We function more like a co-op, paying expenses from tuition and a few donors,” she said. “We have no corporate sponsors or generous underwriters to provide a financial safety net. Stacia has been incredibly creative in finding ways to keep kids engaged. The season began in September, scaled back accordingly, and began live rehearsals as guidelines changed.”

Kamrynn Archer, 11, looks forward to Monday evenings.

“When I’m in the car and listen to the radio, I always sing along,” she said. “This is my first experience being in a major choir. It’s fun for me. When I get in the car after rehearsal, I’m smiling, and I tell my dad, ‘That was amazing!’ ”

Her father, Rob Archer, teaches with Cammarano at Shadle Park High School.

“My wife and I had been looking for an activity for our daughter to get involved in, so this seemed a natural fit for her to pursue a passion of hers,” he said. “It’s great to see our daughter attach herself to something she loves.”

Likewise, Amy and Kevin Eddy are happy to find an activity their three daughters all enjoy. Ellie, 9, joined prep choir this fall, and twins Kate and Glory, 12, are in concert choir.

“I really like the songs we sing,” Glory said. “It’s very good to hear other voices, to kind of mix it up.”

Kate agreed.

“I like the fact that it’s a group of kids who enjoy singing. This gives us a chance for all of us to sing together and learn new songs.”

The girls’ mother is an internal medicine doctor at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, so COVID-19 safety is extremely important to the family.

“We evaluated Crescendo’s plan and procedures and felt they did a good job of minimizing the risk,” Kevin Eddy said.

Crescendo’s winter concert was virtual this year, but students are looking forward to performing for live audiences when it’s deemed safe.

“I love singing in front of live audiences at retirement facilities,” Fiona Kelly said. “I really miss that.”

Cammarano likened Crescendo to select sports.

“It’s just like select soccer,” she said. “This chorus does more challenging music than school choirs and allows kids to pursue their passion at a more advanced level.”

She said adapting the choral music experience to follow state safety guidelines during the pandemic has been challenging, but worthwhile.

“Singing with a mask is difficult,” admitted Cammarano. “But at least this allows us to sing. We are really hopeful to be able to open our program to more students, soon.”

Artistic director Stacia Cammarano instructs during a Crescendo Community Chorus practice at Holy Names Music Center on Monday.


Cindy Hval can be reached at