Friday, Oct. 22, 2010 marks our 11th annual High School Youth Choral Festival in the Bay Area. Even though I've personally been involved with 8 of these 11 festivals (the last one being on a MUCH larger scale), I still get nervous and excited in the days leading up to the event. Will all the high schoolers have their tutti music prepared? Have all the logistical details been addressed? What do we do if it rains?

But it's my job to worry about these things so the Chanticleer Ensemble and participating high school singers and directors don't have to. The mark of a successful Youth Choral Festival is measured in the beaming smiles and open-eyed zeal of the participants, clear signs that real music is being shared. Some choral directors believe that non-competitive is synonymous with anemic "way to go" patronization, but nothing could be further from the truth in a Chanticleer Festival. Perhaps we should change the language "non-competitive" to "self-competitive"...While we don't measure a choir's success based on a one-size-fits-all choral standard, we do hold choirs accountable to their individual strengths. We hear possibilities of greatness in every choir and every singer - and there is nothing more fulfilling than watching that greatness come to fruition. Our Music Director Emeritus, Joseph Jennings, articulated it best: "It's always exciting to see students in assemblies and workshops who are captivated and inspired by the music we bring. We, in turn, are inspired by their enthusiasm and involvement, as well as by their growth and development as young musicians. We reach thousands of young people each year, and it is always a humbling experience to realize the power we have to influence lives. It gives us a sense of immense responsibility when we see that some children look to us as role models."

This Friday marks another exciting moment in Chanticleer's history: the official debut of our very own honors chorus, the Louis A. Botto (LAB) Choir. In some ways, this group is a grand experiment: is it possible to develop a quality mixed youth chorus in San Francisco these days, with talented but overcommitted young singers?
We'll find out on tomorrow, when the group sings three pieces un-conducted in front of their peers. Below was our last rehearsal on Sunday.

Chorus America's VOICE is always good reading for choral people, and those interested in choral music.   The fall issue contains a very comprehensive article about Chanticleer's history in education, focusing on our last youth choral festival ( the really big one):