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Young Westport singers salsa their way towards NY’s Carnegie Hall

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SUITE WITH A STORY The children will perform ‘La Cigarra y la Hormiga’ (‘The Ant and the Cricket’), by Venezuelan composer and conductor, Dr Cristian Grases (pictured).

Westport Children’s Choir to sing specially composed suite in Spanish

For most musicians the chance to perform for 3,000 people in New York’s Carnegie Hall  – perhaps the best-known concert hall in the world – is the stuff of dreams. However, for Westport Children’s Choir, the opportunity to do just that has arisen.
After seeing a video of the choir shot by Dr Ollie Whyte Snr, Distinguished Concerts International New York invited the 30-strong young choir to travel to New York in June to take part alongside other outstanding youth choirs in the world premiere of a new work by well-known award-winning Venezuelan composer and conductor Dr Cristian Grases. Dr Grases, who holds a number of academic appointments in the field of choral music in the US, will conduct the work himself. The choir will have the chance to spend a few days in rehearsals and workshops before the performance and  will also be able to see something of the great city of New York.
In his letter inviting Westport Children’s Choir to New York for this once-in-a lifetime event, Dr Jonathan Griffith, the co-founder and artistic director of DCIN, said, “These wonderful musicians not only represent a high quality of music and education, but they also become ambassadors for the entire community. This is an event of extreme pride for everybody and deserving of the community’s recognition and support.”

Ducks to water
The exciting and dynamic dance music of Latin America is not normally associated with choirs, but Venezuelan composer Christian Grases is well known in the US for taking his native tradition in new directions. Now, Grases has written a suite of music for Westport Children’s Choir’s Carnegie Hall debut that captures all the magic and charm of the rhythms of salsa, son, bolero and cumbia. The choir are deep into rehearsals under their director Eriko Hopkinson to be ready for their New York trip on June 21.
“Many of the children would have limited experience of this type of music, but they are taking to it very well,” says Eriko. “The rhythms are complex, but also very lyrical, so are not too difficult to learn. Of course, forty minutes of music sung entirely in Spanish presents some challenges, but we are confident we will be able to master the score in time to begin intensive rehearsals with Maestro Grases when we get to New York.”
The suite, entitled ‘La Cigarra y la Hormiga’ (‘The Ant and the Cricket’), tells the story of a fable that is well known in many cultures across the world. The tale contrasts the cricket who spends all his time playing music and having fun with his friends, and the ant who slaves away all summer collecting food for the winter. It asks the eternally relevant question; is it better to enjoy life to the full without worrying what the future will bring, or to make every effort to prepare for the inevitable rainy day?

Fundraising for the dream
Running parallel to the artistic effort is a financial one – the choir’s parents’ committee is busy organising fundraising events and approaching possible sponsors in order to make the burden a feasible one for the families of the children travelling.
“For a choir from our little town to be invited to sing in Carnegie Hall is a great honour for Westport and Mayo, and wonderful publicity for the area, but the costs involved are considerable,” explains Bríd Chambers, chair of the fundraising committee.
“The ethos of the choir is for no child to be excluded on grounds of cost, so we have an obligation to support the choir as far as possible. We would like the community of Westport and the wider Mayo community to get behind us in helping these children achieve the opportunity of a lifetime. To perform in one of the world’s most prestigious concert halls – this is every aspiring musician’s dream.”
Upcoming events include a table quiz on Friday, April 20, in The Wyatt Hotel, Westport.

If you would like to help support this project, visit www.westportchildrenschoir.ie.

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