Two of our area’s most beloved choruses — Media Chamber Chorale and the Chester Children’s Chorus — will blend their voices in song at a special concert on the evening of Saturday, May 21, at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Springfield.
When the Media ensemble and its 53 members were seeking a partner for its annual spring concert, they found a natural connection to the Chester Children’s Chorus, said MCC member Linda Heffernan of Swarthmore. The two groups share a board member, Karen Vesely, who knew well the work of artistic director John Alston over the two decades since he founded the chorus. The CCC has grown from seven students in a summer program in 1994 to a year-round elite chorus involving 130 students aged 8 to 18 from every school in Chester.
Alston, a former professor of music at Swarthmore College, will conduct the CCC’s Festival and Concert Choruses as they join with the MCC to sing a suite of spirituals. His counterpart with MCC, John Stroud, will conduct the blended choruses in Gabriel Faure’s Requiem.
Linda Heffernan says collaborations help singers and groups grow. “We have a lot to learn from John Alston and his approach to arranging choral music. And we all benefit from the energy and enthusiasm of younger singers.”
The Faure Requiem is so uplifting and accessible, Heffernan says. “It’s not hard to learn the notes, but bringing out the depth of the piece is the product of focused practice. The quiet passages are particularly challenging, but the mixing of young and older voices is just delightful.”
“It’s been so easy to integrate the two groups,” John Alston says. “Our children have some music reading skills, but not enough to pick up a Faure score and read it. But when they hear the adults around them breathe before an entrance, they know it’s their time to come in. When children are surrounded by attentive, sensitive people, it’s much easier for them to learn, to feel safe and to take risks.”
Heffernan points out that the Requiem offers a chance for the CCC students to work under another director — and one with a special ability to develop vocal talent. She says, “John Stroud has devoted his career to training young singers,” alluding to his work as a music teacher and chair of the music department at the Haverford School, and as associate director for the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale.
The singers will be accompanied by an orchestra including more than a dozen professional musicians. The considerable costs of this talent, as well as travel and logistical costs for the CCC, have been partly underwritten by Media and Swarthmore Rotary Clubs, as well as many individuals and local business program advertisers.
The joint performance of CCC and MCC is at 7:30 p.m. at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 400 Lynbrooke Road, Springfield. Advance tickets are $15 for adults/$12 for students and seniors 62 or older — add $2 per ticket if you buy at the door.
Media Chamber Chorale will also perform Faure’s Requiem and the spirituals, along with three Aaron Copland songs and selections from Phantom of the Opera on Friday, May 20, 7:30 p.m. at Wallingford Presbyterian Church, 110 East Brookhaven Road. See mediachamberchorale.org for more information.
Chester Children’s Chorus performances on May 13 and 14, 7:30 p.m. at Swarthmore College’s Lang Concert Hall, are free and open to all. In addition to the “In Paradisum” section of Requiem — “My gosh, those sopranos!” Alston said — the CCC’s three age-groups choruses will perform Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, a classic rock set (“Born to be Wild”!) and some original songs.
Doors open at 6:45p.m., and seating is limited to 425 guests, so plan to arrive early. More information is at Chesterchildrenschorus.org.