Pro Musica travels to London
Updated: December 20, 2012 2:22PM
London at holiday time suggests cozy Dickens scenes and Harry Potter magic.
Heading into that storied scene are about a dozen members of the Pro Musica Youth Chorus and 10 adult choristers from City Voices to take part in the London International Choral Festival Gala Concert on Jan. 2 in Westminster Central Hall.
The Oak Park-based groups are directed by William Chin, who will travel with his singers on the trip. They depart Chicago Dec. 27 and return Jan. 4.
Among the choristers is soprano Dana Clouser, a junior at Oak Park River Forest High School. She joined Pro Musica in the fall of 2000 and has progressed through the various age-appropriate ensembles until in sixth grade she joined the senior group.
“Singing is my passion,” she said. “It’s what I want to do with my life, so being in the choir is a good preparation.” She also takes private voice lessons and plays both the piano and the oboe. This will not be her first tour. In April 2010, she was with the ensemble when it performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
While she has high school friends, Dana describes her colleagues in the choir differently. “It’s like a family,” she said.
Her mother Kerstin Clouser will accompany her to London.
Soprano Kimberly Murray, a freshmen at Trinity High School in River Forest, is also going on the tour and her whole family is coming along. “Me, my husband Tim, our son Gavin, who is in eighth grade,” said Denise Murray, obviously pleased. “Marcia (Frank, executive director) put together a fabulous itinerary for us. The kids have many rehearsals and two performances, but there is some down time. We’ll have a tour of London and I think we’ll also get a chance to learn how to navigate the Tube.”
There also will be a New Year’s Eve party for the choristers and a New Year’s Day parade in which they will fly kites.
Pro Musica Youth Chorus is a good fit for Kimberly, Murray declared. “She’s always been singing,” she said. “Finding Pro Musica has been a great gift for her.”
Murray praises the group for the depth of its repertoire, which includes chamber music, hymns, contemporary material, Broadway show tunes and Beatles songs. And she is impressed with the commitment and focus it develops in its young singers. “They rehearse two nights a week and there are several events in the summer,” she said, “so it’s pretty much year-round. It takes as much dedication as sports.”
William Chin began conducting the Pro Musica Youth Choir in the fall of 2003 and finds it deeply satisfying to work with children. “In spite of their lack of experience,” he said, “they are really responsive and are willing to try new things. We work hard, but we have a lot of fun.”
In addition to the big concert on Jan. 2, Chin’s singers are doing one other concert on Dec. 30 in Cadogan Hall in London.
“Several choirs are taking part also, but we perform in sequence,” he said.
That program, to be sung by Pro Musica Youth and City Voices, includes a choral arrangement of Pachelbel’s popular Canon, Franz Biebl’s beautiful setting of “Ave Maria,” “The Ground” from “Sunrise Mass” by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, and two selections from Vivaldi’s Gloria in D, including the opening movement arranged for children’s voices.
The great concert on the evening of Jan. 2 will feature a massed choir of 150 voices, accompanied by the Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra. It will include professional guest singers and is being presented before an invited audience which includes all of London’s Mayors.
Selections include “Blest Pair of Sirens” by Charles Hubert Parry, composer of the British hymn “Jerusalem;” “Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg; “I will Sing with the Spirit” by John Rutter; “The Battle Hymn of the Republic;” Howard Goodall’s setting of Psalm 23, and “Sing” by Sir David Wilcocks. It concludes with “You’ll Never Walk Along” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “Carousel.”
This is the festival’s sixth year and the programs will be conducted by James Blair and Thomas Wilson, who is director of the choir at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. The choir stands as the country’s Australia’s oldest musical institution.
Marcia Frank, executive director of Pro Musica, is enthusiastic about Maestro Wilson.”He came to Oak Park in October,” she said. “He worked for about five hours with the children, getting to know them and what they were capable of doing.”
Frank receives information about many choral tours. “But the Pro Musica singers are in school,” she said, “so many just won’t work. This, however, fit the school schedule just right. And who doesn’t love going to London?”