Showing posts with label Wilmington Children's Chorus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wilmington Children's Chorus. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Exploring & Exalting Spirituals in Concert at SsAM

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman
Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, music for film, and music for educational purposes.

The fourth annual spirituals concert at Wilmington's  Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew was heard by a large and appreciative audience on Sunday evening, January 26. Led by the church's music director David Christopher, the varied program featured choral music, two vocal soloists, The Chamber Choir of the Wilmington Children's Chorus, as well as Christopher performing organ solos. His relaxed presentation of each piece kept the whole audience in his hand, providing fascinating background about the music's African-American roots, including the Go Down Moses organ fantasia by the late Nigerian-American composer Fela Sowande, who left no device untried, from Bach to Max Reger, from tragic to triumphant.  

Included was a nod to the choral tradition of Fisk University — Rockin' Jerusalem by John Wesley Work III. The program also included masters of the genre Harry T. Burleigh (the sung version of Go Down Moses) and William Grant Still (Here's One). While most of the selections were part of the older spiritual tradition, one selection was, in Christopher's word, "gospelized," Mark Hayes' dancing version of This Little Light of Mine. The evening's two soloists were the church choir's irrepressible Tina Betz and the young professional mezzo and UD graduate, Melody Wilson. Wilson possesses a rich colorful voice, especially in the middle register. This spring, Wilson will participate in the recording of Terence Blanchard's jazz opera Champion. Wilson will sing in the chorus, also serving as understudy to Denise Graves.  

The Wilmington Children's Chorus, under the direction of Kimberly Doucette, sang AndrĂ© Thomas' Keep Your Lamps, accompanied by the solo djembe drum of associate director Phillip Doucette. The young group of about 40 sang with wonderful precision and tone — even the young bass singers sounded convincing and full. The djembe part seemed to be intended to give life and variety to the many verses in slow tempo, but nevertheless came off as an add-on, somewhat out of the style of the song.  

The church choir was augmented by members of Christopher's Delaware Valley Chorale. It was a pleasure to see seasoned artists like Dana Robertson there to add luster to the music. Audience participation was also part of the mix, and Clayton White's arrangement of Ain-a that Good News from Horace Boyer's African-American Hymnal (LEVAS II) was a stand out. Christopher told me afterward that he was impressed and delighted by the big sound of the audience's voices!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wilmington Children's Chorus Welcomes German Youth in Weeklong Celebration of Music

Excitement is building among the 160 youth from the Wilmington Children's Chorus (WCC) and Youth Chamber Orchestra of Fulda, Germany as they are in the midst of the week of a lifetime. A cultural exchange program and music festival that began Sunday, July 28, in Wilmington will culminate with a joint public concert on Saturday, August 3, at 7:30pm at St. Helena's Catholic Church, 602 Philadelphia Pike in Bellefonte.

The evening's performance will feature Schubert's Mass in G and other works for chorus, orchestra and soloists by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Bernstein. The concert is free and open to the public, although a free-will offering will be taken to help underwrite the costs of the concert. (A $10 minimum donation is suggested.) 

Members of both ensembles have performed at public and private events during the cultural exchange week, including a July 29 Wilmington Blue Rocks game and a gala reception for community leaders at the Delaware Art Museum.  The week included daily rehearsal time for choristers and orchestra members, and so much more. The WCC promised its German counterparts a truly American cultural experience featuring a series of fun and educational activities, both in the City of Wilmington and the region.

To start, the orchestra and their chaperones enjoyed a pool party and barbecue with WCC at St. Anthony's in the Hills.  On July 29, WCC's German guests experienced minor league baseball with the Wilmington Blue Rocks and WCC's Young Men's Ensemble sang The National Anthem prior to the first pitch. Members of both groups entertained audiences at an invitation-only Welcome Reception at the Delaware Art Museum later that weekend.

The fun continued with WCC and orchestra members traveling to Cape Henlopen for an all-American beach day, complete with summer sun and an evening clambake as chaperones got a special tour of Delaware's own Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton. Delaware's German-American community welcomed the guests at the Delaware Saengerbund in Newark. The Birthplace of Liberty — Philadelphia — was a stop, with visits to The Constitution Center, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and lunch at Reading Terminal Market. Saturday, August 3, will be concert day, and the orchestra will depart on Sunday, August 4, after a morning brunch and musical showcase at Christina Cultural Arts Center. 

WCC's Artistic Director Kimberly Doucette says the choristers — ranging in age from eight to 18, plus alumni singers from WCC — have set aside weekend and summer activities to practice and prepare for these events.  For many choristers, this is the first experience meeting and working with individuals from outside the United States; for others, this event marks an opportunity to reciprocate the hospitality they received from German orchestra members and host families during a 2011 summer tour, which included time in Wilmington's Sister Cities of Fulda, Germany and Nemours, France.

"The 2011 visit was life-changing for our choristers and their families," Doucette recalled. "They experienced the pride of representing the City of Wilmington as cultural ambassadors abroad. Our choristers became global citizens and formed lifelong friendships with both the musicians and their host families in Fulda. We cannot wait to welcome the orchestra and their chaperones to Wilmington."

"In hosting our German friends, we're building on the success of a wonderful cultural exchange born in 2011," Doucette concluded, "and we're showing children who might never travel overseas the immense value of not just sharing music, but sharing all Wilmington has to offer - here at home and abroad."

Both the WCC and The Fulda Youth Orchestra are widely recognized regionally for their commitment to artistic excellence and music education. In Delaware, the WCC enjoys a strong reputation for creating opportunity for local and regional youth. WCC has performed with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, OperaDelaware, First State Ballet Theatre, the Philadelphia Arab Music Ensemble, and American composer Robert Powell.

The Festival was sponsored in part by Sister Cities International of Wilmington, Wawa, The Delaware Division of the Arts, the Christina Cultural Arts Center, the Kenny Family Foundation of ShopRite Supermarkets, and Papa's Pastry in Wilmington. St. Helena's Parish as well as First and Central Presbyterian Church and The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew have generously supported this project by providing rehearsal and performance space. The Delaware Saengerbund provided cultural and language support to the WCC as it prepared for the exchange.

The Wilmington Children's Chorus is a multicultural children's choir sponsored by the City of Wilmington, Dennis P. Williams, Mayor, as a project of Cityfest, Inc. Any qualified child can participate for free, regardless of financial or social background.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Wonderous Exploration of The Planets with The Delaware Symphony Orchestra

Artwork via DSO
Once a season, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra offers a “Family Pops” program, an afternoon of family-friendly selections when children are openly welcome to experience the magic of live symphony. On Saturday afternoon, I brought my 12-year-old son, a budding middle school percussionist, to the Grand Opera House to see The Planets, the 1917 suite by British composer Gustav Holst, conducted by David Amado.

The seven-part tribute to the planets of our solar system (it excludes the home planet Earth and the then-undiscovered Pluto, which works out, since it lost its designation as a planet in 2006) has the feel of a modern science fiction movie score -- and it virtually becomes one, minus the “fiction,” as spectacular real and digitally animated footage from nearly 40 years of space exploration is shown on a big screen over the orchestra. 

Parallels between Holst’s early 20th Century piece and later sci-fi and fantasy pieces are clearly drawn; before the screen is unveiled, the program features popular pieces such as John Williams’ “Adventures On Earth” from E.T., “Star Wars Suite for Orchestra,” and “Double Trouble” from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; as wells as the selections “Over the Rainbow” and George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm” by the Wilmington Children’s Chorus, directed by Kimberly Doucette. To experience such familiar pieces played by a live symphony orchestra is real treat, both for kids and for the parents who grew up with most of them.

After a brief intermission, the main event begins. Narrated by David Stradley, who sets up each section with an explanation of of the visuals to accompany the music, The Planets is truly otherworldly, even with footage that is clearly scientific. The amazing sounds and sights make you feel small, as the sheer awesomeness of the solar system is explored. I wasn’t bored for a moment (though my mind did wander as I absorbed the suite, in a good way); my son and niece, who also attended, agreed that the upbeat “Jupiter” and “Uranus” were their favorites. At two hours total, one might expect the young audience members to become restless. If any were, they didn’t cause much of a disruption, making it wonderful way to spend an afternoon, with or without kids.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 Italian Festival Gala Concert

It was Jean Scalessa who really started the Gala Concert eight years ago – and it has become a more professional and polished concert each year. But how can we appreciate those who have the courage to start a concert series and who accept the risk that a new series might fail? And after the grueling work of convincing everyone to join in, they then hand it over to the lucky successor who has a ready-made tradition.

The first performers on the Gala Concert this year were the Wilmington Children’s Chorus, another group founded by a pioneer. David Christopher founded a chorus for kids living in the Wilmington area hoping to mix kids from city and suburbs and create a free, quality choral program. Kimberly Doucette, an active participant from the start of the project and current artistic director, prepared the kids well, showing how she has truly created an atmosphere of discipline administered with a smile. The kids came on quietly, sang well, watched the conductor, had the lyrics down pat (and they sang in Italian). Afterwards I complimented one of the singers who responded with a warm and sincere ‘thank you’ – no teenage squirming or dodging, which shows the program will give them music and mature poise.

Joe Soprani played an outstanding arrangement he created for accordion of Carnival of Venice. The accompaniment on piano by Jordan Irazabal was a great foundation for the piece.

The program also included excerpts from operas, and I was impressed with the round bass voice of Martin Hargrove in Verdi’s Te Lodiamo.

I enjoyed the traditional Italian numbers like Va pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco, which I like to sing with the chorus and I was delighted that Dr. Brian Stone brought more discipline to the conducting than I had seen in the past. The chamber orchestra also had a great sound for Preghiera from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni – again rounded out by piano.

Would that there had been more orchestral accompaniments than piano reductions! Piano reductions are great, but why use them when you have a full chamber orchestra for the afternoon? If they use the chamber orchestra for all of the solos next year, the concert will have developed in a way that would make Jean Scalessa proud.


Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Kids' Stuff....with the Arts!

Despite the winter weather, it's time to start thinking about WCC Summer Camp. This year, we will offer two camps, our Annual Summer Day Camp for treble singers who have completed grades 2-8 and a new Advanced Vocal Camp for advanced male and female singers ages 13-18.

This year's Summer Day Camp for singers who have completed grades 2-8 is scheduled for June 21-25. In addition to choral rehearsals and musicianship training, campers learn new skills in recorder and percussion classes and take the afternoons off for some fun activities like swimming and bowling. After one week, we put it all together for a Friday noontime concert for family and friends and follow it up with an old-fashioned cookout. Older singers can apply to be camp interns.

The new Advanced Vocal Camp is designed for the advanced high school singer who is considering a vocal major, minor, or participation in a college-level choir or opera/musical theatre program while pursuing a non-music major. This one week camp emphasizes solo and choral repertoire, performing and auditioning skills, musicianship skills and staging skills. Highlights include master classes with performing arts professionals and a final performance for family and friends.

Campers do not need to be members of the WCC, so bring a friend! Camp brochures, registration forms and financial aid applications are available and enrollment has already begun.


Mulan Jr.
is based on the Disney production. Music & lyrics by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, Stephen Schwartz, Jeannine Tesori & Alexa Junge. Adapted and arranged, with additional Music and lyrics by Bryan Louiselle. Mulan Jr. is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). Mulan Jr. is part of THE BROADWAY JUNIOR COLLECTION.

Three shows are available: Friday, March 5th, 7:00 pm, Saturday, March 6th, 4:30 pm & 7:00 pm at the Tatnall School’s Laird Performing Arts Center, 1501 Barley Mill Road, Wilmington, Delaware 19807. Tickets are $10 general or $15 for reserved seating. Available at the door or to guarantee a seat, purchase online at: https:\\ Directed by Kathy Cammett, with Music Direction by Yoonhak Baek.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Choral Groups Announce Audition Dates

Two local choral groups---one for children, one for adults---have announced dates for their 2009-2010 season auditions. Love to sing? Check out the below info from Wilmington Children's Chorus and the Delaware Valley Chorale. And good luck to all!

The Wilmington Children's Chorus invites children in grades 3 through high school to audition for the "Singing Ambassadors of Wilmington". Audition Workshop & Select Choir Auditions: Wednesday, September 9. This workshop is open to all interested singers and is an opportunity to review audition material with WCC staff. Auditions for returning WCC members will be held following the workshop. Call 302.762.3637 to reserve your spot. General auditions are granted by appointment: Saturday, September 12 & Sunday, September 13.

For further details, visit

The Delaware Valley Chorale will hold auditions by appointment September 8, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. and September 12 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of Sts. Andrew & Matthew, 719 N. Shipley Street, Wilmington, Delaware. Singers should bring two (2) copies of a prepared classical solo with piano accompaniment (demonstrating appropriate range and tone). Singers must also demonstrate music-reading ability. To schedule an audition, contact Barbara Kidd at 302.234.4866 or

For further details, visit

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

David Christopher gets around

As one of the mothers of the Wilmington Children’s Chorus said at the spring concert, “There is no one that David Christopher doesn’t know.” Christopher was her first voice teacher 15 years ago and now she drives her daughter to rehearsals from West Grove, Pa.

David Christopher balances like an expert – playing harpsichord for the Delaware Symphony, conducting operas, directing choirs and orchestras. His Christmas concerts at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew combine sacred 16th-century polyphony with Caribbean jazz carols lets the congregation express their joy of diversity and community.

He has taken over the Delaware Valley Chorale and honed it into a skilled and dedicated group. Christopher has also directed the Wilmington Children’s Chorus since 2002. He is a singer, organist, harpsichordist, classical and gospel pianist – but his real talent is to patiently turn the pitch- and rhythm-challenged into willing performers and listeners.


Wilmington Children's Chorus

The spring concert of the Wilmington Children’s Chorus on May 17 was an eye-opener. When more than 90 children have memorized the Italian lyrics to a song by a 17th-century German composer and sing with gusto, something good is happening.

David Christopher has built a choir of some one hundred kids from the city and suburbs, even out of state, and ranging in age from 8 to 18. The City of Wilmington’s CITYFEST Office is the sponsor.

Kimberly Doucette led the Chamber Choir in songs by Monteverdi, Handel and Lefevre.

Chrystal Hass led the entire chorus in a traditional South African song which was moving in an a capella style similar to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Damala Haire sang the solo for “I Got Rhythm” by Gershwin. Her voice is pure and strong, and she performed with the ease of a professional.

Pianist Hiroko Yamazaki accompanied the choir and Johnathan Whitney provided percussion, with assistance from Philip Doucette, the chorus manager.

Wilmington Children’s Chorus is also performing at the Grand Opera House at 3 p.m. June 21, and will be joined by some of the jazz artists in the 20th annual DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival. That concert is free and open to the public.

Wilmington’s Children’s Chorus is holding a day camp for musicians from July 13 through 17 for children having completed grades 2 through 8. The camp runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with music all morning, lunch, a little more rehearsal, then swimming, movies and other recreation. There is still financial aid available.