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The Independent

June 18, 2019

Cantabella Children’s Chorus To ‘Make We Merry’

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Posted: Friday, December 5, 2014 12:00 am

Swaying and stepping to the beat of bongos, hundreds of children paraded into the room. Their blended voices resonated through the air with rising intensity, leaving the audience spellbound.

“I cried from beginning to end. I knew I had found an amazing opportunity for my children,” said Laura Van Hook of Livermore, recalling her kids’ first choral performance since the family moved to the Tri-Valley from Columbus, Ohio last fall. Van Hook’s 8th grade son and 6th and 2nd grade daughters have sung with Cantabella Children’s Chorus since January.

On Saturday, Dec. 13, they will join more than 240 local youth in the chorus’ back-to-back winter concerts, “Make We Merry,” at St. Elizabeth Seton Church, 4001 Stoneridge Dr., Pleasanton. The 1pm show will feature Cantabella’s youngest choristers — K-5th grade “training choirs” — and some selections by singers in its more advanced performing choirs, whose members range from 4th to 12th grade. The performing choirs will sing their complete repertoire at the 4pm show.

“All the concerts I’ve gone to have been excellent,” said Katie Boe, an optometrist whose daughter, a 4th grader at Livermore Valley Charter School, joined Cantabella two years ago. “It’s clear the instructors know what they are doing and know how to get the best out of children. I’ve literally gotten chills from the opening processional.”

The Dec. 13 concerts will open with the majestic Torches anthem by British composer John Joubert. The program features Cantabella’s blend of reverence and merriment, sung in various languages often with choreography and accompaniment by professional chamber musicians. The performing choirs will sing more challenging works such as William Mathias’ Salvator Mundi and George Handel’s Aria Achsah from Joshua, as well as dance-worthy sing-along tunes such as Feliz Navidad and It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. The younger choristers will perform American, French, German and Mexican folk tunes.

New this year, the male voices of the performing choirs will join to sing a holiday favorite, The Little Drummer Boy. This all-boys ensemble will be conducted by choral intern Bill Duffy, a Cantabella alum who recently returned to the chorus having earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance.

From 11 students gathering in the living room of artistic director Bee Chow in 1992, the non-profit chorus has grown to serve over 250 children ages 5-18 in the Tri-Valley and beyond. Of these, 75 to 80 newly registered this fall. Many come with no prior music instruction or ensemble experience.

“The training at Cantabella is superb. I was amazed at what they could produce with a bunch of wiggly, giggly first graders,” said AnnAlia Young, a mother of two in Dublin. Her daughter, a 3rd grader at Dougherty Elementary School, joined Cantabella in 2012. They learned of Cantabella because they attend Valley Community Church in Pleasanton, one of the choir’s weekly rehearsal sites.

The chorus also holds rehearsals at Granada Southern Baptist Church in Livermore and St. Philip Lutheran Church in Dublin.

Young children learn musical concepts through listening, singing or movement. Once they are familiar with these concepts — often reinforced through games and exercises — the students learn music reading and theory.

“Cantabella is really organized and well-run. This really lets the kids and teachers focus on singing, learning and making music,” said Deanna Lau of San Ramon. Her son and daughter, who attend Live Oak Elementary School, have sung with Cantabella for two semesters.

“Sometimes people discount a performance by a children’s choir. Cantabella is much more than a bunch of kids singing. It is really beautiful music,” said Margaret Cooke. Her daughter, a freshman at Livermore High School, sings in Cantabella’s honors choir.

The honors choir performed last summer at the World Vision International Children’s Choir Festival in Seoul, Korea, and in 2012 brought home two silver medals from the World Choir Games in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Tickets for Cantabella’s Dec. 13 concerts can be purchased online at cantabella.org/tickets. They are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Admission is free for children under 18 (up to three per adult). Cantabella’s debut album, The Pure, The Bright, The Beautiful, recorded last spring, is available on the website.

Cantabella is also performing 8 p.m., Nov. 29 with the December People Band at Amador Theater in Pleasanton; 4 p.m., Dec. 7 with the Pacific Masterworks Chorus at John Knox Presbyterian Church in Dublin; 2 p.m. Dec. 14 and 2 p.m. Dec. 20 pre-ballet performances for Valley Dance Theater’s Nutcracker at Bankhead Theater in Livermore; and 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Interfaith Concert (performing choir boys only) at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Livermore.