The mission of the Georgian Bay Children's Choir is to educate young people with an enriching, high calibre choral experience, enhancing the cultural life of the world we live in. Most recently, the choir graced the stage to perform O’Canada at Bayshore Arena for Opening Ceremonies at the Ontario Special Olympic Winter Games in Owen Sound.
The Little Jewels choir is the early-ages choir of the Georgian Bay Children's Choir choral training program, for boys and girls aged 6 through 8. This choir learns its own special repertoire - much to the chagrin of the older choristers who are jealous of the cool songs - and performs with the mass choir at concerts in additional selections. They also learn the basics of life in the choir, including what to do when they arrive at choir, how to organize their music, and how to listen to the conductor. Rehearsals are an hour long and start after school so there's still time to get home to eat, do homework, relax and get to bed on time.
My daughter, Taylor, asks to join the Georgian Bay Children's Choir. At the age of 8, she enters at the Little Jewels level. I hear them rehearsing early in September 2001 and cacophony is the word that immediately springs to mind. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry, but I'm glad I'm not in charge. Senior and graduate choristers assist the conductor at Little Jewels rehearsals and they all seem calm. Taylor has already met the Conductor, Mrs. H. (Linda Hawkins), and spent time with her one-on-one prior to the first rehearsal. All the choristers have, and they already love her and try to do whatever she asks. I ponder the extraordinary task ahead of them - how will they ever get their repertoire ready for the December concert?
At their first public performance in a nursing home, the Little Jewels are ready to perform their repertoire. They stand at the front of the lounge in a straggly line. Mrs. H. and her assistants gently straighten them out, but before they start singing, their line is crooked again. They start to sing. I burst into tears.
Concert day arrives in the big church, and the Little Jewels take the stage. The girls hang onto the hems of their skirts, and the boys thrust their hands in their pockets. The assistants gently encourage them to put their arms at their sides. They do. A few seconds go by and the hems are again gripped and the hands are in the pockets. They sing. They are actually making music. I am in awe of Mrs. H. I burst into tears. The Little Jewels, as all Little Jewels choirs before them, and all Little Jewels choirs yet to be, steal the show. The other choristers cheer vigorously and loudly at the end of their set. Taylor hears a Touring Ensemble chorister's solo. When she gets home, she confidently asserts that she, too, will be singing that solo some day.
THE MIDDLE C's
The main choir of the Georgian Bay Children's Choir choral training program is called the Middle C's. Choristers aged 8 - 18 sing in this choir, and it also includes the Touring Ensemble. Choristers may join the choir at any age, and do not have to start in the Little Jewels choir if they are older.
After a year in the Little Jewels, Taylor moves into the main choir, and gets assigned her first kilt. I am amazed at the care of the wardrobe manager (a volunteer parent), as she fits each chorister - her goal, to have them all looking their best and to enhance their self-confidence. This allows them to concentrate on the music. I am becoming aware of the major contribution many parents are making to the choir, and begin to make my own contribution. It becomes a family affair and we all help. Taylor's older brother even helps out at concerts.
Although Taylor is sometimes tired and quiet on the way to choir, there is much singing in the car on the way home from rehearsal, and throughout the week. Theory homework gets done, and words memorized. (Most of the time.) I remark to Taylor that I'm amazed at how she can stand so perfectly still when the choir is performing (no more gripped hems) and she looks at me, rolling her eyes - "Well that's what we're supposed to do, Mom."
Taylor spends two years in the main choir - rehearsals are half an hour longer, there are more performance commitments, as well as fun times at choir camps and Attack games. Friendships are made and she can't wait to get to choir each week to be with her choir friends, and, oh yes, sing.
The choir starts participating in choral festivals out-of-town. The kids work with top children's choral conductors polishing their own music, and singing with the other children's choirs in massed pieces. When I see and hear these hundreds of children singing together and signing (with sign language) one of the pieces at the same time (The Tree Song), I am moved to tears.
THE TOURING ENSEMBLE
The Touring Ensemble is the goal of most choristers. The commitment is larger with more and longer rehearsals and more performance commitments. And, of course, travel! Since the inception of the Georgian Bay Children's Choir in 1986, the choir has travelled to Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Powell River-British Columbia, Vancouver, Des Moines-Iowa, and northern Ontario. The year my daughter moves into the Touring Ensemble, the choir takes its first trip outside of North America to the OIK International Youth Music Festival in Germany. The group also travels to Austria following the festival in Germany, visiting some of the locations where "The Sound of Music " was filmed, and performing their "Sound of Music" repertoire.
It is in the Touring Ensemble where "the rubber hits the road". Taylor digs in and takes ownership of her membership in the choir. I am impressed with the hard work of this amazing group of kids. They, and we, are rewarded with the beautiful sound they create. Voices develop and open up and make even more beauty. It is a cohesive group, musically and otherwise. They continue working on "The Tree Song", and instead of all of them signing it together, one of the choristers takes on this role. It is so beautiful. And yes, more tears are shed.
Taylor works especially hard towards being able to do a solo during her second year in the Touring Ensemble, and nearly achieves her goal, but not quite. She does sing a solo in our church over the summer, with the support of our organist. Will this be the year? She hopes so, and is ready to do the work. Encouragement will come from every quarter, including the conductor, vocal coach, fellow choristers and home.
Solo or no solo, another year begins - a year of beautiful music, improving voices, learning, fun, deepening friendships, increasing self-confidence, growing maturity and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. In July 2007, the Touring Ensemble is traveling to Spain and France, and will compete in the 26 th Annual Festival Internacional de Musica de Cantonigros in Catalunya, Spain. Does anyone have a spare tissue?
The Georgian Bay Children's Choir is always interested in meeting children and youth who love to sing. Please contact General Manager Aly Boltman at (519) 371-3222.
Written by: Margaret Blender
To find out more information about The Georgian Bay Children’s Choir and where you can catch them performing, please visit their website www.gbcc.ca