Children’s Choir teens sing praises of Chicago trip SanTan Sun News

Children’s Choir teens sing praises of Chicago trip

Children’s Choir teens sing praises of Chicago trip
Arts
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By COLLEEN SPARKS

Contributor

Teenagers in the Chandler Children’s Choir are on a high note after singing their hearts out at an historic church, displaying their vocal talents on the iconic Willis Tower and performing near the lions’ den at a zoo during a recent trip to Chicago.

The 27 boys and girls, ages 13 to 17 years old, in the Cantus Choir, Chandler Children’s Choir’s most advanced group, last month visited Chicago, where they performed in different venues, explored popular sights and saw the musical “Hamilton!”

“We do a tour every year,” said Aimee Stewart, artistic director and co-founder of the Chandler Children’s Choir and director of the Cantus Choir.

“This was our first time to Chicago,” she added. “Everyone agreed it was just a wonderful experience. It was educational, it was musical; it was also just a real adventure. It was really fun.”

The choir hit the ground running, performing a concert at Old St. Patrick’s Church their first night in Chicago. Irish immigrants founded the church on Easter morning in 1846 as the first English-speaking parish in the city, according to the church’s website.

The Chandler choir sang a variety of songs in the church, including a Renaissance period piece called “Cantate Domino” by Heinrich Schütz; “O Praise the Lord with Heart and Voice” by Franz Joseph Haydn; an Irish song called “Shule Aroon” arranged by Ruth Elaine Schram; “Chili Con Carne” by Anders Edenroth; and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” arranged by Rollo Dilworth.

“That was an amazing venue, just incredible acoustics,” Stewart said. “It was just such an honor to perform there. We took our audience on an adventure, like we had done our whole season. The audience really loved it. The church staff were so generous and complimentary of our students’ behavior and their musical abilities.”

She said the students “really love to perform,” including for new audiences. The people watching the concert in the church were mostly parishioners and also some of them were also local residents who know the choir members.

Reagan Metz, 16, a Cantus Choir member and a senior at American Leadership Academy in Queen Creek, loved performing in the church. She said they could hear their notes reverberate in the structure.

“It was so gorgeous,” Reagan said. “The acoustics were phenomenal. It was so, so beautiful and we had some really nice songs where we had so many high notes. They have so many pretty stained glass windows.”

Performing at the Willis Tower, formerly called the Sears Tower, was also memorable. The teens sang for about half an hour at the iconic, 110-story building, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

“It was so fun,” Stewart said. “We did a whole performance up there. We brought a keyboard up there.”

The Cantus Choir accompanist, pianist Andrew Campbell performed with the group.

Reagan also liked singing in the towering, steel frame skyscraper.

“It was so high up,” she said. “The skyline is so pretty. We could see it from where we were standing when we were signing. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.”

Later that night the teens in the choir, as well as the adults in their group, attended “Hamilton!” at CIBC Theatre.

“That was so good,” Reagan said. “I’d been wanting to see ‘Hamilton’ since I first listened to it a few years ago and it lived up to my expectations so far.”

The Cantus Choir visited the Chicago History Museum before performing at the Lincoln Park Zoo, where it performed two, 25-minute sets for anyone walking by.

They sang near the lions’ den and after their performance the students walked around the zoo.

“The zoo was so cool,” Reagan said. “It was more casual. A lot of people just sat down and listened to the whole thing. Everyone was like so friendly and they cheered us on even though they didn’t know who we were.”

She was also impressed that the Lincoln Park Zoo is free for the public to visit. Even after their performance, members of the choir did not want to stop singing at the zoo.

“When we were walking around the zoo, we just started singing out of the blue,” Reagan said.

She said it was great getting to know the other teens in the choir during the trip.

“It was really fun,” Reagan said.

The choir students and adults also took a Chicago River architectural boat tour where they saw and learned about buildings in the city. They visited Millennium Park and saw the famous steel mirror sculpture called Cloud Gate, which has the nickname “The Bean,” and also heard performers in a blues festival.

Stewart said the trip to Chicago helped the young singers spread their wings musically and socially.

“So many of them had never been to Chicago,” she said. “It’s such a part of our American history…it’s such an inspiring city. They’ve done a lot of projects to encourage commerce and build their city.”

The singers had a chance to perform in places with different acoustics than they were used to in Arizona while in Chicago.

“It’s so good for them to be adaptable to new situations and be ready to perform,” Stewart said. “Whether you’re tired or a little jet lagged you’ve gotta be ready and give these people a good show.

“When we’re in rehearsals we are working so hard. We don’t have a lot of down time or connecting time. This really bonds our choir together. We saw friendships form that we hadn’t seen before all season.”

The teens also learned how to manage their own money and be responsible for getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods, as well as figuring out how to take public transportation and “navigate a new city,” she added.

Stewart also enjoyed traveling with the choir in Chicago with her husband, Adam, who is co-founder of the Chandler Children’s Choir and president of the organization’s board of directors.

The couple also brought their daughter, Ivy, 13, a member of the Cantus Choir, who will be a freshman at Corona del Sol High School this fall, as well as their son, Eli, 16, who will be a junior at Corona del Sol, and Oliver, 9; who will be a fourth-grader at Kyrene de la Paloma Elementary School, on the trip.

Ashley Arp, tour manager and executive director of the Chandler Children’s Choir, who is also a parent of a choir member, also came on the trip. Four other parents of choir members also accompanied students as chaperones in Chicago.

Reagan has enjoyed singing in the Chandler Children’s Choir since 2009. The choir is divided into different groups according to boys and girls’ ages and levels.

“It’s kind of just another home for me,” Reagan said. “No matter how bad the week could be or whatever’s going around in school it’s a really nice place to go and be with friends and get to sing.

“We sing lots of different songs. Our range of songs is so wide. We sing in lots of different languages. That’s really interesting for me. It’s just a very close-knit family-type environment. I’ve made friends with little nine-year-olds. We’re all just there for each other.”

The Cantus Choir traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, last year and the year before they had visited New York City and prior to that they had toured San Francisco.

Next year the choir will visit Salt Lake City and the group is saving money to visit England and Ireland in 2021. Fundraisers are held during the season and choir members have babysat and held bake sales to raise money for the trips.

Information: chandlerchildrenschoir.org

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