Berkshire Children's Chorus
“I have these moments when I’m singing where everything feels exactly right,” says one young member of Berkshire Children’s Chorus, a non-profit community children’s chorus currently celebrating its 25th season. “Singing in a children’s chorus can be a very powerful and transformative experience,” agrees Artistic Director Julie Bickford. “It was in my life.”
Bickford has been Artistic Director for the Berkshire Children’s Chorus since 2013, when she donned the mantle previously worn by founding director Nancy Loder. In a region lauded as a cultural mecca, Bickford says, “it’s expected that we should have an excellent children’s chorus like this one.” The Chorus fills an important niche. “As a public school choral teacher, I am passionate about music in school, but there are certain kids who need something more. We offer an intense study of vocal repertoire, vocal technique and choral skills for those kids who need to pursue singing in a focused and demanding way.”
By its nature, choral singing has a certain social alchemy. “It’s simultaneously individual and collective. You are responsible for your own part but you are also responsible for singing with your entire group. So you have to adjust your voice and listen to your neighbors and work together as one to form a unified choral sound.”
The Chorus includes singers in grades 1 through 12 who, depending on their age, sing in one of three different auditioned ensembles: Junior Choir, Senior Choir, or Coda. The three choirs rehearse separately, but they always perform a number of songs together at each concert. Bickford notes the importance of this interaction: “The youngest get to look up to the older kids, and over the years they become the oldest and the role models for the younger students. That’s powerful. Not only are you building choral and technical skills, but you’re also fostering a sense of self-confidence that you might not find in another area.”
It’s this vision of intertwined individual and community success that leads the Berkshire Children’s Chorus to support BerkShares. Bickford sees the Chorus as a community organization first and foremost; it is just a matter of course to welcome the community currency. “When you donate to a non-profit using BerkShares you’re actually donating to the service that they’re providing. In our case it’s training children in the art of choral music. You’re directly investing in the lives of these kids.”
On Sunday, June 12th at 4:00 pm the Berkshire Children’s Chorus will present a 25th Anniversary celebratory concert at the Lee Congregational Church. The concert will feature works by Bach, Mozart, and Fauré, as well as folk music from around the world and songs in seven different languages. The program will be augmented by the participation of professional musicians playing flute, violin, percussion, and organ, as well as guest appearances by alumni of all ages and founder Nancy Loder. Admission is free, and donations are gladly appreciated.
There will be “something for everyone” at the anniversary concert, says Bickford. “One of the things I hear most often is delighted surprise. I often see people moved to tears in the audience. There’s a sophistication to this sound. It really is an important and beautiful musical experience.”