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"Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Mike Keenan

Published: April 03, 2017

Friedrich Nietzsche (above) had a point. Watching Amanda Nelli instruct children is to watch someone in love with music who wants to inspire children to share and enjoy the same passion. Amanda is the Artistic Director of Chorus Niagara Children’s Choir, and I sit beside Trish Crawford, the Administrative Director, in a large, inviting, well-lit training room at First Grantham United Church on Linwell Road in St. Catharines.

Afterwards, Amanda tells me that she startedin the program five years ago with only seven children, but they are now up to 60, divided into three age groups ‒ a Training Choir, ages five and six led by Glenda Crawford, an Intermediate Choir, ages seven to nine, and the Concert Choir, up to age 17. Next year, she hopes to add a second Training Chorus and a new conductor, and her goal is 100 students along with a boy's choir to attract more boys and their friends.

Amanda is an experienced music educator and choral conductor who lives in Burlington and teaches there and in Oakville. I watch her apply Socratic Q&A techniques along with appropriate hand gestures as she employs her own vibrant voice to provide solid musical examples for the children to hear.

In two small groups for harmony and melody work, they look attentive, and appear to be having fun. Lynne Honsberger, the talented accompanist, slaps out high-fives when her group successfully finishes a piece. Practicing Danny Boy, Amanda teaches proper breathing technique along with what vowels and lyrics to stress. They use Dropbox software to send music to the children's home computers. "It's important that they hear the music," says Trish.

Amanda hopes that the youngsters "catch the choir bug early on" such that they stay in the program, progress through each chorus and grow. She sends home a weekly memo and practise notes describing what to work on and what to memorize, and it seems successful as they practiced a Celtic Choral Suite that the children had learned complete with one number in Gaelic.

The youngest are so cute, I'd like to take a few home. One little guy sings casually with both hands in his pockets; one girls wears what looks like a black riding hat and another, a pretty woolen toque despite being indoors.

Trish says that Amanda works them hard, but from what I saw, they were enjoying themselves, and I was impressed with the stamina and poise that they exhibited recently on the large stage at Partridge Hall.

The music program runs from September to May. Fees are ‒ Training Chorus $395, Intermediate Chorus $425 and Concert Chorus $450. Amanda tells me that a private half-hour music lesson would cost a parent $30 whereas their program works out to $10 for a full hour and Chorus Niagara employs a bursary system for those families with financial hardships. They currently sponsor five children with a limited ability to offer partial subsidies.

It's obvious that Chorus Niagara Children’s Choir (CNCC) is a vital part of the Chorus Niagara Family. Their stated goal is "to develop musical knowledge, build relationships, create a sense of community, and share the love of music with others in children ages 5 to 17.  Children receive a broad musical education, which includes sight singing, ear training, music theory and vocal techniques. CNCC is committed to providing an energetic experience aimed at bringing confidence and joy through music education."

From what I have experienced of this group, thanks to talented teachers such as Amanda Nelli, Glenda Crawford and Lynne Honsberger, they are well on their way.

CNCC rehearses on Wednesdays at First Grantham United Church in St. Catharines. For more information about the children's choir please visit their website at: www.chorusniagaracc.com Young people aged 5-17 who are interested in visiting a rehearsal or joining the choir should contact: Trish Crawford, Administrative Director who can be contacted at info@chorusniagaracc.com

If you have suggestions or comments concerning blog topics to help celebrate St. Catharines, contact me at ‒ mjk6648@gmail.com

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