- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Started in 2003, the Schubert Singers, a choir for children, has recently hit a growth spurt.
"We had an overwhelming response last fall," said Alicia Cordelle, a founding director who runs Friendship Landing Center for the Arts, a program that allows children in the area access to the fine arts.
The choir had about 25 kids in 2011; in 2012, it was more like 50.
There is plenty of room for almost every kid in a family. A preparatory choir is open to beginners and younger kids. An ensemble choir is for more advanced voices, and the Schubert Chorale is for older kids and the most advanced singers.
The uptick in membership might be due to the choir performing during a couple of seventh-inning stretches at Southern Maryland Blue Crabs games, Cordelle said. While the group performed patriotic songs during the break in baseball action, the choir is not limited to such songs.
"We are a classical children's choir," Cordelle said. There are American folk songs and spirituals, pieces set to poetry and traditional songs that were once part of the fabric of the country but are slowly fading away.
"There are folk tunes that kids don't learn anymore," Cordelle said.
Singers don't just memorize parts and parrot them back. Schubert Singers learn musicianship and how to read music, and it seems to pay off as the kids enter other programs.
When kids have gone on to high school choirs, teachers have been known to single them out for their skill.
The kids are given self-paced music literacy workbooks to help them learn more about musicianship, Angela Garvey said.
The choir also broadens cultural horizons and delves into music in other languages, like Spanish, French, German, Hebrew and Russian, Cordelle said.
Directed by Garvey, Paula FitzGerald and Tammy Gross, the choir was founded to give kids in the area exposure to choral singing.
“[The choir is] introducing them to the world of classical music that will benefit them through their whole life,” said FitzGerald, the group’s artistic director. “It is introducing them to this vast world of music that is much more than the latest pop singers.”
The group is also dedicated to keeping the children’s choir sounding like what they are.
“It’s a lovely sound. They sing the way they’re supposed to sing,” FitzGerald said. “They’re supposed to sound like children. They’re not supposed to sound like the latest ‘American Idol’ winner.”
The choir was founded to offer kids a chance at learning a classical style of singing.
“We love the sound of children’s voices and felt that that classical style of singing was something that wasn’t being addressed in Southern Maryland for children,” Garvey said.
When the group started, there were maybe a dozen kids. The idea was to grow the choir enough to have three groups beginners, intermediate and a chorale for more experienced voices. Now with enough members, the three groups have been formed.
The choir is a treble choir, for voices in a higher range, so boys usually move on around age 11, when they can’t hit the high notes anymore.
The group holds a winter and spring concert, about four shows that “tour” area churches and The Maples, a senior living facility in La Plata. The choir also performs at special events like Blue Crabs games and will take part in the Renaissance Festival held by the College of Southern Maryland later this year.
The directors get together to work out the selections.
Garvey is excited about one of the pieces that will be performed in the upcoming Epiphany concerts. The group will sing "Upon That Holy Night," a carol that was written by Michael Britt, an organist at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. The church is known for its organists, Garvey said, paticularly Virgil Fox.
“We pull from things we’ve done before,” FitzGerald said. “If you’re looking for folk music, you go searching on Webpages. There is never a lack of music to choose from. We usually have more than we need.”