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Children’s Chorus returns to stage after lengthy hiatus

  • Allison Pollard conducts a Children's Chorus rehearsal at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon. (Upper Valley Music Center photograph) photograph

  • Liz Sauchelli. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/19/2023 4:19:55 PM
Modified: 1/19/2023 4:51:49 PM

LEBANON — For Allison Pollard, there’s just something about children’s voices coming together in song.

“There’s nothing like hearing kids sing,” said Pollard, a music teacher at Bernice A. Ray School in Hanover. “I’m a sucker just for children singing in unison — depending on the song of course — I usually get a little choked up about it.”

Upper Valley residents will be able to experience that joy alongside Pollard during a Children’s Chorus Celebration from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Greater Hartford United Church of Christ, located at 1721 Maple St. in White River Junction. More than 40 children in grades K-4 (and a few fifth graders too) will perform under the direction of Pollard, a voice instructor at the Upper Valley Music Center who has taken on the Children’s Chorus after a nearly eight-year hiatus.

“I knew that they would both really enjoy it, but there was little bit of apprehension at first,” said Lebanon resident Ayumi Shimokawa, whose daughters, Yuki and Aki, are in the chorus. “Within the first rehearsal they both came back loving it.”

Rehearsals began in September and took place at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon and the White River School in White River Junction. Each class has around 20 students enrolled and their voices will join together when they perform five songs during Saturday’s concert. Tuition for the 14-week program was $150 per student and $20 for Hartford School District students.

Aki’s favorite piece is Thula Klizeo, a South African song that is partly sung in Zulu.

“I guess (I) like how some parts it’s in a different language and then in the middle it transforms into English and changes back,” said Aki, who is 5-going-on-6.

Yuki’s favorite song is Snow Day because she enjoys how fast it’s sung.

“The words are said very quickly in the Snow Day song,” said Yuki, who is 8.

That song has proven to be popular among the children, partly due to the use of props, Pollard said. There are coats, hats, sleds, mittens and fake snowballs.

“They’re trying desperately to convince me to let them throw them at their parents at the end,” Pollard said with a chuckle.

One challenge with the chorus has been to find pieces that appeal to children across a wide age range. Pollard has offered solo opportunities to some of the older students and has encouraged them to take on mentorship roles for younger performers. She also has come up with warm-ups that can be challenging — but also fun — such as singing the alphabet in reverse.

“It really works for that whole age group,” Pollard said. “They so badly want to be able to say the alphabet backward.”

Even when singing, the children rarely stand still. And that’s on purpose.

“I’m really into introducing music through body movements,” said Pollard, who graduated from Lebanon High School in 2013 and took voice lessons from UVMC instructor Jennifer Hansen when she was a student. “I find that kids are way more likely to remember the words, the music, the harmonies, the melodies.”

The Children’s Chorus is part of a larger wave of Upper Valley choruses that have been on the way back after the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to the traditional ways people sing together. While Zoom programs and other forms of technology have tried to fill that void, it’s been tough.

“I feel like we’re kind of approaching that age for Aki where we can do those after school activities, but Yuki is also starting at the same time because of COVID,” Shimokawa said.

After each rehearsal, the girls excitedly tell their mother about it.

“The new songs that they’re learning, they’ll perform them all for me,” Shimokawa said. “They’re learning a lot.”

Pollard emphasized the importance of children having those group experiences: It’s not just about singing; it’s about being together.

“Connecting on that primitive human level is something that is so needed particularly after COVID and particularly with children with who lacked that stimulation for so long,” she said. “I think the work is so important right now and I get to work with kids and sing silly songs, but I can tell … that the work what we’re doing and the time were spending together is much more impactful for that for their social-emotional well-being.”

Yuki and Aki are both looking forward to Saturday’s concert and sharing what they’ve been working on the last few months.

“I like performing. It makes me very nervous when I think about it, but then when I get on stage it makes me feel a lot better because it’s really fun,” Yuki said. “It makes me feel better when I sing with other kids because it makes me feel like I’m not the only one who’s singing and if I make a mistake no one will know it. They’ll just hear the other voices.”

Editor’s note: For more information about the Children’s Chorus, including upcoming classes, visit uvmusic.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.


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