FLYING THE FLAG Westport Children’s Choir members with their teachers and Maestro Cristian Grases. Back, from left: Lily-Mae O’Regan, Eriko Hopkinson, Katie Harmon, Ellie O’Brien, Aoife Gibbons, Cristian Grases, Jessie Troy, Juno Ellison, Hazel Hopkinson, Charlie Harburn and Edward Hopkinson. Front, from left: Conor O’Brien, Kate Geraghty, Lucy Geraghty, Siofra O’Brien, Nora Holmes, Ruan McCabe.
Westport Children’s Choir recently returned from New York following their Carnegie Hall concert, ‘Song/Play’. The trip was the culmination of many months of work by the choir members and their parents, learning and memorising the music, and raising the funds necessary to support the project. The choir and all involved are extremely grateful to all the people and organisations who supported them so generously and helped make this once-in-a-lifetime dream a reality. Without their help the trip would not have happened.
The concert itself was preceded by two days of intensive rehearsals in an uptown Manhattan hotel with the composer Cristian Grases, who had been commissioned to write and conduct the music specially for the occasion. The piece, called ‘La Cigarra y la Hormiga’ (‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’), consists of seven songs in Spanish.
Maestro Grases, who is from Venezuela but now teaches in the University of California, turned out to be relaxed, dynamic and funny, and he kept the children engaged and inspired throughout the intensive process of refining and creating the performance. There were eight choirs involved in the performance, mostly from the US but one from China; in total there were about 200 singers, between the ages of ten and 16.
Finally, on the third day, the choirs gained entry to the impressively large and beautiful Carnegie Hall. They rehearsed for the first time with the Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) orchestra, and it was very exciting to finally hear the full score, as the singers had only previously been accompanied by a piano part.
As expected there was plenty of percussion to drive the Latin dance rhythms, but also many beguiling melodies on flute, clarinet, strings and brass.
The first half of the concert was played by the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, who seemed mostly to be of high-school age but belied their years with an impressively rich and beautiful sound, led and inspired by their highly musical director Henrich Claasens. Finally the children’s choirs were onstage, and they rose wonderfully to the occasion as the many weeks of hard work and preparation paid off in a dynamic and joyful performance, which moved the audience to a standing ovation, and caused their families great pride as they made memories that will last a lifetime.
After the concert, the children and their teachers attended a reception in a smart nearby restaurant, where there was a delicious meal laid on. There, they got the chance to talk to Maestro Grases and make friends with the other choirs. Then suddenly it was all over. Some choir members and their families returned home the next day, and some stayed on to experience the city a little longer – but for all it will be hard to top the experience of performing in Carnegie Hall.
Join the choir
All aspiring young singers aged between six and 18 who are interested in joining Westport Children’s Choir are welcome to attend auditions for the new term. The auditions will be held on Saturday, September 1, from 1pm to 3pm in Holy Trinity NS. Westport Children’s Choir is a secular, unaffiliated community choir. The Junior Choir is for ages six to nine; the Senior Choir for ages nine to 14; and the Westport Youth Choir is a chamber choir for 14 to 18 year olds. Further details can be found on the choir’s Facebook page or their website westportchildrenschoir.ie.
Eriko Hopkinson is the director of Westport Children’s Choir. For more information on the choir, or to book an audition time slot for September 1, contact her on 087 6200445.