Regional program gets area children singing
By Lucinda Breeding
Published: 30 January 2016 10:21 PM
When the children who sing in the North Texas Metroplex Children’s Choirs perform, artistic director and Denton resident Ann Smith said they’re doing more than linking up notes and practicing good technique. If Smith and the elementary school music teachers who prepare the young singers for their concerts do their work right, the choirs will make art. “We teach technique,” Smith said.
“We teach music. But we also teach children how to feel the text. We’re teaching them how to sing from the heart.”
If Smith has been grooming the best elementary school singers to perform in important music halls, accompanied by professional musicians, for 20 years.
Before she built the three-choir arts nonprofit, Smith taught choir at Denton High School and Liberty Christian School. She’s a winner of the Greater Denton Arts Council’s Community Arts Recognition Award. Now she’s working to make the Metroplex Children’s Choirs a top-notch, sought-after music program that serves audiences, the performers and their families.
The North Texas Children’s Choir performs its first concert of the year Saturday afternoon at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.
“Ross Perot gave the Meyerson to the people of Dallas,” Smith said. “We want the kids and their parents to be able to come into the Meyerson and enjoy a whole program for the lowest possible ticket price the Meyerson offers. When a man in pressed jeans, a white button-down shirt and a white straw hat walks up to me at the Meyerson on concert day and asks me where the box office is, I know we’re doing what we need to be doing.”
The choir — made of fourth, fifth and sixth graders — will sing a full program. The concert starts with a processional and presentation of flags, accompanied by bagpipes, the National Anthem performed by the Texas Youth Chorale and four pieces by the Kansas State Collegiate Chorale. A brass duo will play Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, and then the children’s choir will present its program.
The choir will perform “Angel Fly,” a sacred piece about the Virgin Mary. In keeping with the choir’s tradition of performing music in a foreign language, the ensemble will perform the Zulu piece “Thula Klizeo.”
“The African pieces we do are always celebratory, whether they’re spiritual or otherwise,” Smith said. “The children enjoy them because of that.”
The choir will perform the second movement of Leonard Bernstein’s “The Chichester Psalms,” which includes a solo for countertenor or for a child. Robin Tyson, a countertenor, will appear as a guest, as will harpist Jennifer Betzer and young soloist Aryan Argwal.
“Bernstein wanted to depict David as a young boy in these psalms,” Smith said. “It’s a really good selection for the choir.” The choir will finish with “This Little Babe” from Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, Gabriel Faure’s “Sanctus” and Z. Randall Stroope’s “Homeland,” which will include Denton High School choir alumni from 1996 to 2003, the Kansas State choir and teachers.
The program ends with the Wider Symphony No. 5 for Organ Toccata Movement. Organist Daniel Stipe will play the piece.
Smith said the program is demanding.
“There’s no reason on God’s green earth that these students should be able to sing ‘This Little Babe,’” Smith said. “But because their teachers are so good and they love it, they can sing it, and they can sing it well. That’s the funny thing. The kids end up really loving the hard music. When you love something, the potential is exponential.”
The singers rehearse regularly at their campuses, under the direction of their music teachers. About 12 singers from each of the 20 participating schools work regularly with their teachers. The night before concerts, the small groups come together for a full-choir rehearsal.
“This organization is built on a vision,” Smith said. “We want to give the students a taste of what could be, what they might experience in high school. We’re trying to give them a taste of the big concert hall, with accompaniment. The programming is high level and multi-language. And the children respond to high level, multi-language programming.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at