Kettering Children’s Choir to perform at Levitt Pavilion

Singers are masked and stay socially distanced during their in-person Concert Choir rehearsal. CONTRIBUTED

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Singers are masked and stay socially distanced during their in-person Concert Choir rehearsal. CONTRIBUTED

Guitarist Jim McCutcheon, hammered dulcimer artist Amanda Roberts are special guests at spring concert

We can’t think of a happier way to welcome spring and celebrate our newfound freedom than to watch 86 young people singing their hearts out! The Kettering Children’s Choir will perform live at the Levitt Pavilion on Saturday evening, May 15.

It’s the perfect chance to see one of the largest and most successful children’s choral programs in Ohio. The young people have toured both nationally and internationally and have shared the stage with such notables as The King’s Singers, Marvin Hamlisch, Peter Nero, Art Garfunkel, LaVar Burton, Natalie McMaster, Jim Brickman and Felita LaRock.

This time they’ll be performing with guitarist Jim McCutcheon and hammered dulcimer artist Amanda Roberts. Both will play their own compositions.

“These young singers are as professional as adults,” notes Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Neal Gittleman. “They are well trained, focused, attentive to phrasing and articulation and disciplined.”

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Allison High rehearses her solo for the upcoming concert. CONTRIBUTED

Allison High rehearses her solo for the upcoming concert. CONTRIBUTED

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Allison High rehearses her solo for the upcoming concert. CONTRIBUTED

The title of this spring concert, “Music Made Together, was suggested by chorale director Bruce Swank.

“Music is mainly a collaborative effort and many times, singers are amazed at how they can combine their simple vocal part with other parts and create a song that is lovely, inspiring and moves their soul,” says Swank. “Humans yearn for that beauty and music is a wonderful example of what can result when they work together for a common goal.”

The choir staff has been working closely with Levitt Pavilion and Montgomery County Public Health to ensure the safety of both singers and audience members. There’s no fixed seating, so you’re encouraged to bring lawn chairs.

The current artistic directors are Jennifer Jauss and Christina Smith. “This upcoming concert is the culmination of all the hard work the singers have put in over the last eight months,” says Smith. “Everyone in the KCC worked extremely hard to give our singers a place to be creative even when it could not be in the same place at the same time. I am excited to hear our choirs because I know how genuinely happy they are when they perform together.”

What you’ll hear

Selections will range from folk songs and spirituals to classical and general choral repertoire. The finale will include the group’s signature song, “See the World Through Children’s Eyes” and a special arrangement of “O Shenandoah” by J.D. Frizzell. Thanks to a grant from the Dayton Foundation, one of the special experiences the choirs had this spring via Zoom was a chance to meet and chat with Frizzell about the arrangement and his career as a composer, arranger and conductor.

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Some of the youngest members of the Kettering Children's Choir do warm-ups during a Zoom rehearsal. CONTRIBUTED

Some of the youngest members of the Kettering Children's Choir do warm-ups during a Zoom rehearsal. CONTRIBUTED

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Some of the youngest members of the Kettering Children's Choir do warm-ups during a Zoom rehearsal. CONTRIBUTED

Surviving in a pandemic

Michele Ellinger’s daughter Maddie, a fifth-grader at Driscoll Elementary School, was the first singer to enroll in this unusual season. Ellinger says they saw the value of the enrichment and growth her daughter has experienced as a member of the choir. “With COVID, she had limited other extracurricular activities available to her, so KCC was an especially good fit,” says Ellinger.

The choir survived through weekly Zoom rehearsals and one live rehearsal in March, April and May hosted by NCR Country Club. The annual Christmas program was completely virtual.

Leigh Pope, whose 10th-grade daughter, Marian, sings in the Concert Choir, says in spite of the pandemic, they “never for a moment” considered not signing up this year. “Marian really wanted to keep going and to continue her connection with the group, and keep learning so she wouldn’t be behind when they could be together in person again,” explains her mom. “She also wanted to be able to see her friends regularly, even if it was only on Zoom. We considered it an opportunity for her to learn not only new music skills, but also to increase her knowledge of and familiarity with the technology involved. But we will still be very happy to get back to live concerts and rehearsals.”

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Guitarist Jim McCutcheon will be a featured guest at the upcoming Kettering Children’s Choir concert. CONTRIBUTED

Guitarist Jim McCutcheon will be a featured guest at the upcoming Kettering Children’s Choir concert. CONTRIBUTED

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Guitarist Jim McCutcheon will be a featured guest at the upcoming Kettering Children’s Choir concert. CONTRIBUTED

Special guests

Best known as the Guitar Man, McCutcheon is the winner of the 2017 Governor’s Award for the Arts in Arts Education. He’s taught at the University of Dayton, Wright State University and Miami University for more than 40 years, has released three CDs for kids and hosts a weekly program on Dayton Public Radio’s Discover Classical called “The Intimate Guitar.”

I’ll be playing in between KCC sets during the outdoor concert,” says McCutcheon. “It will be a mixture of music including classical guitar, an original song from my recent album, ‘Guitar Man Goes to School,’ and maybe a fingerstyle jazzy piece.”

Roberts, a hammered dulcimer artist, has been performing for more than 25 years. She is currently rehearsal pianist for the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus and director of music and liturgical ministries at Christ Our Hope Anglican Church in Fairborn.

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Hammered dulcimer artist Amanda Roberts will be a special guest at the Kettering Children’s Choir upcoming concert. CONTRIBUTED

Hammered dulcimer artist Amanda Roberts will be a special guest at the Kettering Children’s Choir upcoming concert. CONTRIBUTED

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Hammered dulcimer artist Amanda Roberts will be a special guest at the Kettering Children’s Choir upcoming concert. CONTRIBUTED

Music makes memories

Spencer Hajarian, a Northmont senior, has spent seven years performing with the group and especially remembers performing for “Angel Night " at the Calvary Cemetery. Homeschooled student Caroline Benton has many “amazing” memories of her years in the choir. “My favorites include my time in Dr. DeHorn’s homeschool choir and singing ‘Mass of the Children’ with the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.”

Faith Bergeron, a Springboro High School senior, says she’ll never forget singing her first KCC song, “Cradle Hymn,” without music. “When our artistic director Mark Jauss first said we were going to do that, I didn’t think we could,” she admits. “I thought that it was asking too much, too soon — but boy, was I wrong! The utter amazement at just how much we knew and just how well we could sing together after what seemed like such a short time was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. That moment has been with me ever since, and I look back on it to remind myself of how powerful music can be and how capable we singers are.”

HOW TO GO

What: Kettering Children’s Choir’s spring concert, “Music Made Together” with special guests guitarist Jim McCutcheon and hammered dulcimer artist Amanda Roberts

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 15. (The concert will proceed in the case of light rain. If there are high winds or lightning, a rain date is slated for 7 p.m., Saturday, May 22.)

Admission: Free

Seating: Bring lawn chairs.

Parking: Available at the Convention Center Garage for a nominal fee or on any of the surface streets in the area.

More info: www.ketteringchildrenschoir.org

OTHER UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES

  • The KCC Summer Sing! is a choral festival for singers ages 8-18, open to all existing KCC singers and to students from schools throughout the Miami Valley. The two-day festival will take place within the Creative Arts Building on the campus of Wright State University on Saturday, Aug. 7 and Sunday, Aug. 8. Singers will be introduced to a wide variety of new music, musicianship skills, and music games, culminating in a concert on Sunday for families, teachers and community members. For information and registration forms, please contact ketteringcc@gmail.com.
  • Auditions for the 2021 season will be held on Saturdays, June 12, July 10 and Aug. 7. Auditions will take place at Wright State University’s Creative Arts Center. For more information, call (937) 701-4893, or email ketteringcc@gmail.com.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The Kettering Children’s Choir was founded in 1986 when Dick Benedum, who directed the Bach Society at that time, recognized the need for a vocally trained Children’s Choir in the Dayton area, capable of joining with groups like the Bach Society, Dayton Philharmonic and the Dayton Opera. Benedum prevailed upon Natalie DeHorn to undertake the task.
  • Starting with a small, multi-aged group of about 25, it soon became clear that a second group (Chorale) was needed as a training group for the original singers (Concert Choir), and eventually a third group (Chorus) was added for the youngest singers. Finally, when the older boys got upset about having to leave KCC when their voices changed, a fourth Choir (Cappella) — a four-part group for high-school aged singers — completed the lineup.
  • Members’ ages range from 7 through 19.
  • Contrary to the name, not all of the singers live in Kettering — they come from all corners of the Miami Valley: Beavercreek, Bellbrook, Centerville, Dayton, Englewood, Fairborn, Kettering, Lewisburg, Liberty Twp., Miamisburg, New Carlisle, Oakwood, Springboro, Springfield, Sugarcreek Twp., Tipp City, Trotwood, Union, Versailles, Waynesville, Wilmington, Xenia and Yellow Springs.
  • Almost one-third of the members are homeschooled; the others attend 44 different area schools.

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