Chester Children’s Chorus
The Chorus offers talented children from Chester, PA, the opportunity to develop their musical gifts, expand their intellectual horizons, and strengthen their life skills.
Children are invited to join the chorus on the basis of musical potential, enthusiasm, and family support. The music staff conducts annual auditions in second-grade classrooms in every public, charter, and religious school in Chester, and a new group of second-graders enters the chorus every summer. Families pay a modest annual fee for Chorus participation. For further information on this organization visit: Chorus
How we serve:
Hosting concerts at St. Peters Church – Financial support
Don’t miss the concert coming November 18, 2017! Make a reservation to join the youth for dinner by contacting Kate Mallon-Day.
The concert will feature many types of music and a piece sung with St. Peter’s choir.
Want to learn more? See this article from the chorus below.
Chester Children’s Chorus: Strong Voice, Strong Mind, Strong Spirit – Sing Out! Rise Up!
There is no “magic” in what the Chester Children’s Chorus does. Instead, there is fierce magic in who the children already are – and it is our job, our privilege, our duty to capture, celebrate and magnify all the good we see – all the good they can be. They are our children. All of them. All are our children.
It is fair to say that the Chester Children’s Chorus began a long time ago with one boy. That boy was John Alston, founder and director of the Chester Children’s Chorus. The summer before he reached sixth grade, his mother took him in hand and enrolled him in the Newark Boys Choir and very soon, with his chorus-mates, he was performing at the Vatican, and with Leonard Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic, and was steered to Erasmus High School in Brooklyn (think, Barbra Streisand)… all very dizzying and overwhelming and no small feat for a young lad to stay grounded. But something wonderful happened. In his own words, John found his soul – singing strong. He always sings strong. He loves what singing out does for his spirit, and what it does in his life and in the lives of those he loves.
John sang his way through undergrad, to a master’s degree, a Big-10 PhD from Indiana University, then to teaching and singing in NYC and touring the country, eventually to an assistant professorship at Swarthmore College. Rarified heights. No master plan – just singing strong. But as happens in life and by grace – dots connect. Swarthmore is four miles from Chester PA, and Chester PA has issues, kinda like the economic, educational, too-few-options-for-too-many-problems place he once knew, and one that Swarthmore takes to heart. So, almost impulsively, John, our Hero, asked to borrow a college van and found seven boys who might want to sing strong. That was twenty-three years ago, in the autumn as he recalls.
From those seven, the Chester Children’s Chorus now number 135 boys and girls from 3nd grade through high school seniors in four choruses. Each year John and his team audition every 2nd grader – about 400 little children in all – from 24 schools – public, charter, religious, private, home/cyber school. It’s more song-play than audition, to see who can hold pitch, who’s having fun. Once a week after school and again on Saturday, the children come together. The little ones learn their first classic hymns, original songs and Stevie Wonder, and eventually master Faure’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah and an expanding repertoire not typically associated with places like Chester – many of our students will tell you their “favorite song” is the Lacrymosa from Mozart’s Requiem. And you can be assured they feel it as well as sing it. The chorus’s rehearsals include talk and study and play, to grow strong minds and spirits to support their strong voices. Over 5-1/2 weeks through the summer, along with daily rehearsals, they study music, African dance, biology, swimming and math on the Swarthmore College campus. These boys and girls, young ladies and young men also learn to trust and care for each other, and to wrap their imaginations around college, careers and vibrant lives in their futures. Performing 12-14 concerts a season, these Chester children learn that they have the power to thrill any audience. That experience can empower any child to pass through any door.
The kids’ families are excited about the chorus and they encourage and support their children, potentially over the ten-year span of our program. The children are exceptionally happy learning music and some choose to stay with us until graduating high school. They gain discipline and practice success. They sing strong and let the world know they’re special. They hear and are enfolded in the applause and become more confident, happier, stronger.
Over the past 23 years, more than 1000 students have participated. A few have gone on to successful careers in music and the arts, and we have current alums in pre-med and bio-engineering, law and government, business and trades. Our kids are not “at risk”, they are on the brink of wonders. We cannot deprive them of opportunities to realize who they are, what they can be – all that they can be.
“Deprived”. That word hits a nerve. Chester’s families swim against a toxic tide by every demographic: unemployment, poverty, homelessness, sickness, crime, educational rankings… Chester is at the bottom of all the “best” lists and the top of all the “worst” lists. “Top 10 ‘Most Dangerous’ Small Cities in the US”? How’s that even a thing? The data is numbing and the news stories are harrowing and, yes, our kids take the hit and feel the fallout – and yet – Listen to them!
CCC’s strategic goals are VOICE, VISION, and VIGOR. One – Voice: Musical literacy, fluency and artistry – performing familiar, popular and classical works as they progress in musicianship Two – Vision: The Whole Child, academics, life skills, cultural awareness and respect (their own and others) and an identity with our group and our community. Three – Vigor: Its institutional strength is marked by programs and capacities, organizational and musical leadership and strong relationships among CCC families, audiences, the Chester community and supporters.
Chester Children’s Chorus is becoming a substantial entity, and like the kids, it too is on the brink of great things. It has an $800,000 operating budget and increasing needs for an expanding vision to meet wider challenges. Chester has a population of 33,000 and 7,500 school age children. The Chester Children’s Chorus is a force among them and note by note, it are a terrific investment: listen!