The Glens Falls Symphony Children’s Chorus might be made up of youth but its repertoire is far from child’s play.
“(Orchestra music director) Charles Peltz likes to emphasize that we now have a chorus that can take a central role and do more pieces throughout instead of just being a sing-along chorus at the end. This is not a kiddy chorus anymore,” said manager Shay Mason.
With a lineup of nine pieces, the elementary to high school-aged students will once again join Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra on Sunday in its holiday pops concert, titled “A Season for Singing.”
Music director Carol Ann Elze-Sussdorff has been preparing her choristers since the third week in September, rehearsing such tunes as “The Sleigh a la Russe,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Haida,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and the finale, “Silent Night” — with one verse sung in German.
“I try to find beautiful music with great text. The pieces also have to have varying tempos, so they’re not all the same. I try to vary the difficulty and the voicing. I can’t tell you how many hours I spend listening, looking,” Elze-Sussdorff said.
One piece, “The Little Tree,” a musical rendition of a poem by e.e. cummings, is on the roster after composer Daniel Brewbaker suggested it to Mason and Elze-Sussdorff two years ago during a children’s workshop with master teacher and editor Doreen Rao of Chicago.
“In my opinion, it was the marriage of text and melody of any that I’ve heard of any of the varieties. The melody is so in keeping with the rhythm and tone of the poem. There are three sections, and it’s expressive with unfamiliar intervals,” Elze-Sussdorff said. “This is a real challenge for the children, but I also knew because the piece was so beautifully written, that they would get it.”
Elze-Sussdorff said the orchestra and youth usually join forces only at the Christmas concert, but last spring, they also performed together on Mother’s Day, too, singing some Aaron Copeland selections.
Smaller ensembles of choristers also have appeared at such venues as SaratogaArtsFest and South Glens Falls’ Bulldog Palooza and a core group performed at the Glens Falls tree-lighting ceremony last week.
Elze-Sussdorff said the average time a student stays with the chorus is about three or four years, although this year she has one who began in fourth grade and is now a high school freshman.
When the singers do move on to sports or other pursuits, Mason said the alumni are still likely to show up at symphony events.
“Even if there are kids who spend a year here, they develop a real appreciation for great music and they’re much more likely to become involved in other musical activities,” she said.