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Youth Choral Festival


Albany, A.P. Giannini, Hoover, & Crystal Children's Middle School Groups join us for the day; LAB 5 helps

This was the week for youth choral festivals.  Today we had four big middle school groups - several hundred students and their directors- with us for the day.  Here's what we looked like - us, the four choirs, and 7 members of LAB 5- onstage  for the concert  at First Unitarian Church singing our tutti numbers - Hava Nashira and Little David, Play on your harp.

The format of the Middle School Festival is like that of our High School Festivals - only shorter.  Our final program comes around at about 3pm, after a day of singing and working together.  First we should send a hearty shout-out to all the students for making music part of their lives.  We promise them they'll never regret it.  Their dedicated choir directors also deserve lots of appreciation- Mary Stocker ( Albany,)  Courtney Lindl ( AP Giannini,) Kenneth Koppes ( Hoover Middle School,) and Miao Hsieh ( Crystal Children's Choir.)

Kids arrived by bus around 9.30, then we warmed up and rehearsed our tutti numbers together.  Education and LAB Choir Director Ben Johns conducted.

After the tutti rehearsals, each choir sang its own numbers.

A.P. Giannini Mixed Choir

Albany Middle School Chamber Choir

Herbert Hoover Middle School Advanced Choir

Crystal Children's Choir

Lunch and some letting off steam in the courtyard under the San Francisco sun followed. We had lunch with the choir directors.

After lunch, the heart of the day- each choir has a session with 3 of us offering suggestions about their concert pieces.

Herbert Hoover with Eric, Alan, and Brian

Albany with Gregory, Kory and Matt C.

Crystal Children with Matt K., Cortez, and Ben

A.P. Giannini with Casey, Adam and Mike

As always these days have a family atmosphere.  Board members, donors, and friends come - along with parents of the students.   Former ensemble member Dan Cromeenes acted as accompanist, and reunited with old colleagues.

Seven members of LAB 5 did all kinds of things, from bringing cookies, to greeting students, observing workshops, participating in tutti numbers, and offering a little serenade before the concert.

We all felt good about the day and about the concert.  We hope the students and choir directors did too, and we hope we see them again soon.


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Napa, Palo Alto, SOTA, Ukiah + LAB 5 join us for Youth Choral Festival

Four High Schools attended our annual Youth Choral Festival today, held for the first time at the San Francisco Conservatory right near our office. It was the largest ever in terms of attendance - 284 students from four schools.   Ukiah came the furthest - leaving at 7.45 am to get here, Napa and Palo Alto High Schools, and San Francisco's School of the Arts. Something new was that  Vance George ( Music Director Emeritus of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and advisor to our LAB Choir) joined us to rehearse and conduct the tutti pieces, as well as offering sessions with the visiting Choir Directors.

Many members of our LAB Choir were on hand to help out, greet, direct traffic, stage manage, and greet donors at the reception. Three members of LAB 5 are in the Palo Alto High School concert choir; they did double duty all day.  They also gave the concert a very lively opening and sang the day to a close after the reception.  ( keep reading.)  We really appreciated their being with us today.  Here, at 9am,  they get their marching orders from Ben Johns, Chanticleer Education Director and Director of the LAB Choir.

There were several nice familial things today:  Napa High School is the alma mater of new Chanticleer soprano Kory Reid, whose Choir Director Travis Rogers came today with his concert choir.  Kory's first exposure to Chanticleer was in 2002 - at this very Youth Choral Festival!

To get the day started, and before warmup we sang  Eric Whitacre's "This Marriage."


Then we all get to work with Vance rehearsing the tutti numbers which the visiting choirs have rehearsed in advance.  Gregory and Michael were the pianists, as the Brahms Liebesleider Walzer and German Requiem are accompanied.

We have lunch with the choir directors after hearing their choruses.  After lunch we split up and go work with the individual choruses on the songs they have brought for the concert.

SF School of the Arts - whose director is former Chanticleer tenor, Todd Wedge.

Ukiah High School directed by Denise Doerling.

Palo Alto High School directed by Michael Najar, assisted by Monica Covitt

Napa High School directed by Travis Rogers.

Lunch had offered, as always, a chance to know the Choir Directors better and to hear more about how it's going for them  in the public schools.

Kory works with his old choir, Napa High School ( he sang tenor with them) along with Alan and Ben.

Brian, Matthew and Casey with Palo Alto High School

Eric, Cortez and Matt Curtis with SOTA

Gregory, Michael and Adam with Ukiah.

Another rehearsal of the two Brahms pieces with Vance went until 5.30pm, everybody successfully combatting mid-afternoon fatigue to enable Vance to achieve things at the concert which he hadn't been able to do during the rehearsals.  Thanks for sticking in, everybody!

LAB 5 opened the concert with their Piazolla tango, and then the mini-opera "Italian Salad" which got the concert off to a lighthearted yet very impressive start.  


Then all the choirs sang the numbers they had sung earlier in the day and on which we had worked together.  Then us

We sang de Vivanco, R. Strauss, Duke Elington and Freddy Mercury's "Somebody to Love" and then enjoyed the best ovation we get all year!

A reception for donors followed, attended by a number of our Board members among others.  LAB 5 came along, then just had to sing one more time, in the stairwell,  before we all left. They sang "Deep River" and then Casey and Eric joined them for "Ubi Caritas."

It was a great day, one of our favorites in the year, when we get to enjoy seeing future generations of singers coming up behind us.   Maybe there was a future Chanticleer member in today's group ( as Kory was l0 years ago.)  At least we know these students are going to keep singing all their lives, and that's a good thing.  Thanks to them, their teachers, our supporters and Vance for a successful day. We're doing it again on Friday for Middle School Choruses.  See you then.

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Friday Bay Area Youth Choral Festival

Friday we had our 11th Annual Bay Area Youth Choral Festival -an event we always look forward to.  Some new things this year - two choirs who had never been before from Sacramento - Jesuit ( all men) and St. Francis ( all women).  It had been ages since we had single sex choirs in the festival. The three other choirs joining us were from Acalanes, Davis, and Gilroy High Schools -it's always good to see those very groups and their longtime directors. The LAB Choir made its long awaited debut.  It was a great day! We start by singing  a song to get us all in the right mood.

Ben and the LAB Choir then led us in our warmup.

Matt Curtis explains the secret of singing high

All together in our respective sections, we rehearsed the tutti concert numbers.

After lunch and socializing, each choir sang its own numbers

We have a brief meeting to decide how we can be helpful and which of us will go with which choir

Then off we go to our homerooms for almost two hours of work together - one of the day's highlights.

Gregory, Cortez, and Michael McNeil had a great time with the St. Francis choir, so much so that Gregory kept crying!

Adam and Brian, Acalanes, and their director Bruce Lengacher.

Casey (at his first ever youth choral festival) with Jace, and the Davis Madrigal Singers and their director Karen Gardias.

Eric, Matt Curtis and Michael Axtell ( also having this experience for the first time) and the Jesuit men.

Ben Jones and Alan with Gilroy.

The last event of the afternoon is the tutti rehearsal which involves a fair amount of logistics getting everybody on and off stage - all 200 or so of us, separately and together.  Matt Oltman directs traffic.  Then pizza dinner and more socializing.

The LAB Choir kicks of the concert, singing two pretty hard numbers unconducted (Chanticleer style.)  They did really well!

The Davis Madrigal Singers are always the most colorful!

And a long and good day ends with all of us - conducted by Matt Oltman- singing Barber's "Sure on this Shining Night" and Sydney Guillaume's "Kalinda."  After that we all went off in to the night - our guests for some long bus and car rides.   We thank the students, parents and directors for their enthusiasm and hard work and managing to get themselves out of school and come so far.  We thank members of the LAB Choir for being so helpful during the day. We always really enjoy meeting parents when they come and we appreciate their support of their children's love of singing.  Quite a few of our board members and donors were there too, and we thank them for their support of our education programs.   Now the kids will go back to school and we'll go back to the road - Tuesday Sun City, Arizona, then Kingwood and San Marcos, Texas on a tour which lasts until November 7.

Then, very soon, it will be Christmas!  Be sure to get your Christmas concert tickets early - Bay Area tickets are selling well alreay- and remember that our new CD "A Chanticleer Christmas" can solve a lot of your gift giving problems!

see you soon



Friday's Youth Choral Festival & LAB Choir debut: Education Director Ben Johns shares his thoughts

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):



Recording from National Youth Choral Festival available for download!!!!!

We know that the singers and choir directors who participated in our first ever National Youth Choral Festival in March have been waiting for the recording.  Here it is!!!

 We are also making the recording of Lesur's ANNONCIATION available separately.  Those of you who weren't there to experience this unique evening might also like to hear it.  There were 416 singers from 12 high schools around the country, us, a youth orchestra, and Frederica Von Stade - in an interesting and novel program.  The centerpiece was the American premiere of Daniel-Lesur's Annonciation - you really should hear that!

You know that we really  appreciate your purchases at our digital storefront - it helps a lot!!!