Youth and Children Choirs

Conducting the Treble Voice Choir

Conducting the Treble Voice Choir

Revelation

Since as far back as 1989, in my role as a choir director I have been able to work choirs of all kinds: mixed, female, male, youth and children’s choirs, getting singers to sing from the age of 4 to 94, the age of my oldest chorister.

In every choir I directed, I always suggested forming a section for treble voices, and I reckon that over the years I have contributed to the founding of six children’s choirs, two of which were only boys and one only girl. What this has meant is that many boys and girls have gone on to join the adult groups, bringing life, good health and vitality with the freshness of their voices and enabling music-making to continue for many more years.

The children’s choirs have been a special experience right from the start, both in terms of motivation – as the source from which the singers would come into the adult choir – and responsibility for providing a special musical and pedagogical service, vital for being able to do a decent job.

First and foremost, it was a discovery, almost a revelation for me! Children love to sing because they love to communicate their emotions, and from the get-go I was greatly struck by this and excited to see that the singers were able to communicate to me their enthusiasm for the powerful expression of choral singing fully and without filters.

Conscious choice

Over the years, as my name as a conductor became more well-known, the demand also grew for me to conduct a number of choirs with whom I would work weekly. I realised straight away however that this did not allow me the peace and calm I needed in which to work.

It became almost impossible to find the time to carefully plan the rehearsals and the various projects with the individual choirs.

Over the years I have therefore restricted myself only to the group I work with now, the Garda Trentino Treble Voice Choir in Riva del Garda. The only children’s group I founded without the end purpose of forming voices for the adult choir, but which started life as a complete entity, sufficient unto itself. My ideal choir in fact.

I can say that working with my children and young people has certainly been the greatest joy and satisfaction in my life as a choir director: forming the earliest voices of the little ones, helping children who struggle to sing who might one day become soloists, creating a repertoire of writings and compositions expressly tailored to them.

In Italy, the treble voice choir is currently the musical ‘instrument’ that is engaging with contemporary music more than any other.

Children’s choirs often exclusively perform pieces composed by living writers, frequently and willingly composed for them on commission. This also gives me a huge boost in my work as a composer: writing and being able to hear my own musical creations, in close collaboration with my choir.

Motivation

In order for families and singers to be convinced of the worth and quality of the path that is being suggested to them, for years now I have acted on my decision to suggest projects that are as worthwhile and important as possible. These days the choir is just one of dozens of opportunities that our kids have available to them, why should they come here instead of doing sports or other activities? So there are countless hours spent in assessing and weighing up ambitious projects, such as participating in festivals or competitions, both in Italy and abroad, study sessions with important people from the choral world, unique recording projects, perhaps with a particular theme or focus, tailor-made for the little choir singers, study weeks on particular subjects such as Gregorian chant or the music of contemporary composers, also studying new pieces composed on commission, organising workshop days together in some beautiful place in the mountains or by the sea. Over the years the study-vacation week has been a particularly effective way to learn new repertoire and get together as a group, away from families, but also with the help of outside experts who can bring that extra level of interest and impetus for constant improvement, both by the group and especially by the director!

Problems and educational aspect

Of course, not everything in the garden is rosy: a great master once told me: Enrico, we need to educate the parents!

Delicate and difficult moments sometimes arise when we least expect them; such as those choristers, for example, who, after being with the group for only a few years, when they are really beginning to flourish and take possession of their voice and their place in the choir, tell us they are choosing to leave the group.

The reasons are varied: different interests that the singer develops over time, maybe a sport or something else, or more often problems within the family that make participation in rehearsals and concerts difficult to undertake with the required commitment and reliability. Parents are therefore a burning issue. It is not always possible to make them understand the need and importance of the child’s participation in the choir’s activities, not just for musical but also extra-musical reasons, such as being open and sharing one’s inner world with others, managing one’s emotions and discipline and respect for the rules of the group: arriving on time and participating in scheduled activities, maintaining respectful behaviour towards one’s fellow group members are aspects that teach the chorister how to concentrate and to have and maintain a cool head even in the most difficult situations that may arise in school and life in general. After having sung in a national or international competition, perhaps as a soloist, or having made several recordings for a new CD and endlessly repeating the same passages to get them perfect, a test in front of teachers or professors will seem like no big deal in comparison.

Reward

Let’s also talk about taking one hundred percent responsibility for the artistic result at concerts and choral competitions, with children there are no tricks or deceits! You cannot make use of add-ons to look good or win prizes, the responsibility and hard work for the vocal, psychological, musical and technical preparation are yours and yours alone, for better or worse.

What then could be more rewarding and satisfying for a choir director? No other kind of choral group has been able to give me the same beautiful, strong and lasting emotions and feelings of fulfilment.

This is why I rejoice when I see a new young director of treble voices. I encourage him strongly and with conviction to continue on this path, knowing that this special choral group will bring him huge rewards in terms of his work, his music and as an individual; by assuming responsibility for the group, he will be improving himself. One of the best things is seeing former singers, now adults, who remember you and remember their experience in the choir as one of the formative stages in their life.

As my friend Mario Mora wrote a few years ago: The Children’s choir, gift and responsibility of an artistic journey.

 

Translated from the Italian by Laura Massey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: