Local choir gives kids an opportunity to practice singing, perform
In the early 1990s, public school music teachers Sylvia Richardson and Donald Cary noticed a flaw in the Gloucester County community. While there were a plethora of opportunities for children to be involved in sports, places to practice arts were scarce. With that knowledge, the two started the Gloucester County Children’s Choir.
“We decided we need something for the children,” Richardson said.
Unfortunately, Cary has since passed. Richardson keeps his memory alive by serving as the director of the choir.
The choir is currently holding auditions on Wednesdays in January at the St. James Lutheran Church in Pitman. Richardson said she is looking for children between 10 and 18. To schedule an audition call (856) 589–5149. From there, Richardson will set up a time to audition.
“We take just about everyone who comes,” she said. “If they want to sing, they can.”
Interested children don’t need anything other than their voice for the audition. According to Richardson, she is looking to find their choral range, whether it be soprano, alto, tenor or bass.
“I just ask they come. I have them sing certain things that allow me to know their voice range and how well they listen,” she said. Richardson added the group is a community choir, not a church choir.
The choir has two annual concerts, one in the spring and one in the winter. In addition they perform year round at parades and at the Marian Anderson Music Guild in Cherry Hill. One of Richardson’s favorite places for the children to perform is the local senior citizen center. According to Richardson, the choir performs there after the winter concert.
“We sing every year in a senior facility, whether it’s Pitman Manor or Cardinal Village,” she said. “We do it because we love to sing for others.”
This past year, the choir traveled to Washington, D.C., to perform a memorial concert. In years past, they toured Maryland and Virginia, including a clinic at George Mason University.
“The children sang for the head of the choral music department and she gave us some pointers,” Richardson said.
As if touring the area wasn’t enough, Richardson said the choir traveled to Europe in 2009 to perform in Vienna, Austria, at the Haydn International Youth Choral Festival.
The choir is funded by the state Council on the Arts/Department of State and has a board of trustees as well as a parent guild. The Gloucester County Children’s Choir is a 5013c nonprofit organization.
The choir does its own fundraising as well, not only to offset the cost of travel, but to provide enrichment opportunities for the children.
“We have guest artists,” Richardson said. “I like to expose the children to as many professional and other musical organizations as I possibly can. Sometimes it’s a jazz group or a saxophone player.”
For the older members of the choir, juniors and seniors in high school, scholarship opportunities are available.
“We started this in 2010,” Richardson said. “We’ve been able to do so because of our fundraisers and the people who come to our concerts who generously contributed.”
She added students don’t need to pursue a degree in music.
At the end of the day, the mission of the choir has been the same since day one. The mission statement for the choir is “To provide an opportunity for performers between 10 and 18 to participate in performing arts.”
Richardson is an example of bringing out the best in the children, saying she wants to share their talent.
“They all bring something,” she said.
She likes the love and enthusiasm the children experience when they perform.
“They have never disappointed me. They always do a fine job when it comes to their performances,” Richardson said.
While there is no cap on membership for the choir, they only audition twice a year. For audition information, call Richardson at (856) 589–5149. For more information about the choir itself, visit www.gccchoir.com or the Gloucester County Children’s Choir Facebook page.