The doors were locked and the students and teachers had gone home, but there was a light in the Performing Arts wing last week when the Martha’s Vineyard Children’s Chorus rehearsed for its upcoming Spring Concert, planned for Sunday, May 21, at 3 pm at Union Chapel. The concert will feature an eclectic mix of music from around the world, covering multiple languages, including Latin. The children will perform with the Island Community Chorus and the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) freshman chorus.
The Children’s Chorus works to train children in grades 1 through 8 for participation in musical groups in high school and beyond. Although the chorus is younger than its youngest members, being founded last year by Lisa Varno, the program is off to an exciting start. They’re working on fostering a community, building self-confidence, and developing students’ musical abilities. Artistic director Griffin McMahon said, “It’s incredibly good soul work. It’s very important whether or not they go into music or go into art; it’s teaching community and teamwork.”
The schools on the Island have strong music programs. However, MVRHS music teacher Abigail Chandler said, “Choral singing is a subset that most of our Island kids don’t get enough of, so [Ms. Varno’s] group is definitely helping fill a need for our younger kids.”
This year, the Children’s Chorus got the chance to connect with the Island Community Chorus and the MVRHS freshman chorus. Already, the children rehearse at the high school, but now they get to perform with people they can look up to. “It’s very exciting for them to rehearse where the high schoolers are,” said Mr. McMahon. Being in that space gives the kids a vision of what the future could be should they pursue music in high school.
This collaboration not only gives the kids a chance to look up to the high schoolers, but also to connect with musicians of all ages. According to the Martha’s Vineyard Children’s Chorus website, Ms. Varno is excited to establish a mentor relationship with the high school students, and this concert is a wonderful opportunity to make that connection.
“I love to collaborate with [Ms. Varno] because I think it’s important for my freshmen to be examples for the younger kids of what’s to come for them,” said Ms. Chandler. “Lisa is so professional, and expects her kids to be hard workers. The end result is beautiful singing from kids who seem to really love singing. As a singing professional myself, I appreciate the effort and product.”
The program owes much of its success to its strong leadership by Mr. McMahon and Ms. Varno. Mr. McMahon is a graduate of the Juilliard School, and serves as the music director and organist at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown. He has taught piano since he was a teenager, and has worked with children’s theater productions as a vocal coach and pianist.
Ms. Varno has an extensive background in musical education as a teacher for eight years in the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania public school systems. She has directed choruses ranging in size from 10 to 300, and established the Martha’s Vineyard Children’s Chorus last year.
The concert will be at Union Chapel on Sunday, May 21, at 3 pm; $10 donation requested. The performance is expected to run an hour. The Children’s Chorus does not require auditions, and is open to all Island students in grades 1 through 8. There are two semesters, running from January to May and September to December, with each session culminating in a concert.