“Ni Neart Go cur le cheile” (“We are better together”) is an old Celtic proverb that finds modern relevance in young and growing local musical ensembles called vocalis, Latin for “having voices.” I’m here. (Also refers to the muscles that make up the vocal cord ligaments that form the vocal cords.)
Founded in 2021 by Julie Bickford, the choir was prompted by the pandemic and developed through serious discussions about hiking with friends. This choral group is based on the belief that developing your voice as a young person is an important part of growing up and learning about yourself. “The mission of the Vocalise Youth Choir is to educate youth in the art of choral music while providing opportunities for personal and creative growth, youth leadership and community engagement,” said Bickford. explain.
Bickford is the root of this chord, her passion, energy and talent for connecting with young people set the tone and resonate throughout the group. Vocalis founding chairman of the board, her Larissa Yaple, was impressed with her Bickford effort from the start. “She’s dedicated her career to helping young people find their voice and tap into it.” Mention that he worked for Chorus Angelicus in Torrington, Connecticut. “Her organic group leadership model is equally important to the group’s success,” said Yeple, explaining her many responsibilities that come with it. She sings with the choir.
Indigo Travis, one of the many young people Bickford empowers, is a public fan. “Vocalis and Julie literally helped me find my voice. Singing on Vocalis made me feel like I was part of a community and it gave me a way to make my voice heard. I feel like we can accomplish more as individuals because we’re doing it together.” I will go immediately.
If Bickford had starred in The Nutcracker Ballet when he was 11, none of this would have happened. Or if her wise mother hadn’t suggested instead auditioning for Paul Halley of the Chorus Angelicas (an internationally acclaimed children’s choir in Torrington, Connecticut). She earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Ithaca College and a Master of Music in Music Education from Hart School of Music at the University of Hartford.
Anyone who grew up playing in musical groups can understand the magic that occurred during Bickford’s early choral experiences. When a diverse group of people (often with seemingly little else in common) come together to make music, the intensity of their efforts and their shared reverence for a job well done can be felt by sports teams and Form a bond as strong as school play.
It is especially impressive when music is created by the most ancient, simple and complex instrument – the human voice. It is considered by many to be the most difficult instrument to master as each instrument is so complex and unique. The human voice is also the most versatile in that the vocal cords have a vibratory mechanism for producing instantaneous sound waves and a resonant mechanism for producing such vast tonal and emotional expressions. .
But perhaps nothing is more difficult than blending these complex, individual voices into harmony. Especially in the first few rehearsals, every director secretly harbored a criticism of “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson-esque “high pitch” and lost. Discordant blend with beats.
But nothing is more moving, soul-lifting, and reverent than the final note of a final performance, where the conductor lowers his baton and the singers gasp as they breathe in precious nods of deep gratitude and approval.
A choir rooted in music education and community involvement
“Beginning as a mission statement to create a choir that values community involvement as much as performance and music education, the choir is filled with children not only with strong voices but also with curiosity and generous spirits. We grew into a strong choir of 15 people,” explains Bickford. In other words, kids who are passionate about music, eager to learn and contribute to their community.
A young group, the Senior Choir, is made up of high-range singers aged 10 to 14 who are trained in the learning of proper vocal techniques, the development of musical literacy and reading skills, and the listening and blending skills essential to ensemble work. The focus is on sharpening your skills.
Travis, a key mentor to our younger members, said: I’ve known some of the young choir members since they were four or five years old, and it’s been fun to watch them grow in all sorts of ways and help them become more confident performers. It’s just A higher level vocal group, the Ensemble, is organized for high register singers between the ages of 14 and her 18, offering a more challenging and diverse repertoire divided into three divisions and his four divisions. To do. Both groups he rehearses once a week for 90 minutes.
The Vocalis Youth Choir will present two free concerts in June (donations accepted at the entrance) as part of the Celtic Choral Music Series. The first concert will kick off the seventh season of music on June 3rd at 7pm at Southfield Church, New Marlborough. The opening concert is sure to lift your spirits and tip your toes. The second (home) concert will take place on June 10th at 4pm at St. James’ Place (352 Main Street, Great Barrington).
James’ Place, in the heart of downtown Great Barrington and known to many as a state-of-the-art, year-round Gothic Revival cultural center, was originally an Anglican church founded in 1857. bottom. This building collapsed as the number of parishioners dwindled. It fell into disrepair, but in 2017 it was lovingly restored by husband and wife Sally and Fred Harris and brought to the community as a non-profit, multi-purpose cultural facility.
In addition to being a cultural venue, St. James’s It is also the home base. As always, all proceeds from his home concerts will go to The People’s Pantry. “This was a natural focus for our community engagement and helped support People’s Pantry with whom we share a home,” said Bickford.
What does this mean for performers? “Because of my connection with Vocalis and the People’s Pantry, I’ve found that when I sing, I don’t just make beautiful music, I actually benefit people in many ways,” says Travis.
Improving performance through musical transformation and close collaboration
Both concert repertoires focus on Celtic-inspired vocal and instrumental music. Musical collaborators include Eric Martin on fiddle, Jon Suters on guitar, Matthew Schneider on bass, Matthias Bossi on percussion, and Dorothy Cowles and Elizabeth Arryn on piano. Each program includes traditional songs from Ireland, Scotland, Newfoundland, and more, and showcases the Spring Artist in Residence program with Eric Martin.
Martin’s relationship with Bickford dates back to his undergraduate years at Ithaca College (which overlapped for two years) and continued after college when they sang in the same choir (Crescendo) in several concert series. “I hired him to work with a string trio to play some Celtic pieces in past concerts, and I was like, ‘Not only will he show up for the final rehearsals, but he will be a part of the whole long process. I started thinking, ‘That would be great,'” says Bickford. I will explain.
Singing and playing violin and viola, Martin is well known in the community as a freelance musician (solo, as well as trio with Karen Axelrod on piano, Rachel Bell on accordion, Alchemy ). He is also a music educator and, in addition to his private studio, formerly Simons taught at his Bard College of Rock and Music, and now Berkshire he teaches at his Waldorf School.
“What was most exciting about his stay was that he was a true partner in every part of the process, helping curate the programme, arranging the songs for the band that accompanied the choir, and mentoring the singers. “Children have responded very well to our artist-in-residence program,” says Bickford. “This has improved their performance in new ways.”
“It was a real pleasure to collaborate on this concert,” Martin affirms. “The young singers were very sensitive and willing to try new things.”
One thing that was completely different for some choirs was learning the songs entirely by ear (using the call-and-response teaching format common in traditional music). “They picked things up very quickly. I feel that this is a testament to the great training they’ve had from Julie.”
To avoid imagining choral music to be strictly serious, Martin said that “it is not sung in a particular language, but instead nonsense syllables (called light music or mouth music in various traditions) are used. The song is described as “a very rustic song”. “It was fun to see them let their hair down a bit on that song. I think it’s a nice variation on the beautiful sound they put out on other songs on the programme.”
Travis agrees. [the song] There are many words that are not actually words but sound like. “Holo, Hara, Dara.”“
Neil Weber, current chairman, added: “As an organization, we are very excited about working with Eric’s choir. As a community member and a musician with great cultural knowledge, he believes we can give our youth a wonderful opportunity to go beyond the normal choral experience.” They helped provide it.”
Vocalis benefits members as much as the community
Highlighting all the benefits of singing in a choir deserves its own article, but a recent Chorus America survey identifies at least three things. “Children who sing in choirs develop advanced skills in teamwork, leadership and perseverance.” Singing in a choir “not only adds the beauty of music to your life and that of your child, but it also adds lifelong skills and personality traits that greatly influence the choices you make as an adult.” (by the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir website).
Indigo’s father, David Travis, acknowledges the value of the choral experience: “Julie is a true gem. We highly recommend Vocalis to all parents of budding singers.”
Having successfully made the necessary adjustments to rehearsals during the pandemic, Bickford faces new challenges with the singers’ hectic schedules and their ability to keep up with their weekly commitments. Additionally, Vocalis (and most nonprofits in our region) face the challenge of raising funds to carry out their mission. Weber explains: “Since the tuition fee ($600 per year) only covers a quarter to a third of the operating budget, we rely on individual donations, cultural council grants, and advertising revenue from the program to cover the rest. It depends a lot.”
The board is committed not only to providing opportunities for this kind of music to choir members and the surrounding community, but also to ensure sustainability for years to come. “We feel we have made considerable progress,” says Webber. We are learning how important locally generated personal donations are. “
To that end, they welcome everyone to attend their upcoming concerts, encourage other young people to join their choirs, and consider donations to keep them singing for years to come. (see Vocalisyouthchoir.org for more information).
“My mother[Margaret Webber, now 98]has been singing all her life,” says Webber. Her music and what it has given her is incredibly inspiring to me. It also inspired her daughter to start singing with Julie when she was 11. I hope that passion remains with her for the rest of her life. “