An enthusiastic audience tends to bring out the best in performers, and, feeling the love, the always sweet-sounding La Cañada High School Chamber Singers were in top form as they knelt on the Palm Crest Elementary kindergarten playground last week. One little boy, boogieing down before them, was doing his part to encourage the choir.
Like students at all three of La Cañada Unified School District’s elementary schools, he had a great seat to take in the talented high school singers and orchestral musicians during the groups’ traditional holiday visits last week.
The Chamber Singers toured the campuses Thursday, and the orchestra arrived Friday, in an effort to both inspire holiday cheer and drum up interest in the music programs at LCHS 7/8 and LCHS.
“It’s good cheer, obviously,” said Jeff Brookey, LCHS’s choir director. “But it’s also good exposure for us; we’re showing these kids that there are options of music.”
“It’s all about trying to go and get everybody excited about music, about getting them hooked into the possibilities,” said Jason Stone, director of the instrumental music department. “A lot of the musicians we get like that, a lot of them are like, ‘I never really thought about that [until seeing a performance at their elementary schools.]’”
Giving high school singers and musicians an opportunity to return to their former campuses is a fun tradition, Stone said — as is lunch out afterward, well-earned by the orchestral students who load, unload, set up, play, tear down and reload all of their instruments three times in one morning.
Kelly Steele said her older brother’s participation in choir was mostly what inspired her to join the choral program, and she has clear memories of listening to him and his friends in the Chamber Singers perform there at PCR. Being back as one of those big kids singing so beautifully was a special experience, she said.
“It’s fun to see all your old teachers and see how much you’ve grown,” she said. “I used to be in the audience as this little kid and now it’s like, ‘OK, guys!’
Specifically, what she told the future chorists in the PCR multipurpose room was, “I joined choir in 7th grade because it was the only elective that seemed interesting to me, and from Day One it has been my favorite class, my favorite part of the day. I’ve learned so much, it’s my safe haven on campus, and the choir room also is the coolest room on campus because we have this weird ceiling. I’ve made so many friends from this group, I get to sing with them every day and I love it; it’s a great experience — and you can all join.”
If that didn’t motivate a young singer to want to sign up, Brookey made sure to mention some of the choral department’s past trips — Spain, Slovakia, Australia, the Czech Republic, this year, New Orleans.
Traveling and singing appealed to 6th-grader Ashley Dietrich, who raised her hand several times as Brookey quizzed the audience about how many “parts” they could discern as Brookey’s vocalists expertly layered “Here We Come A-Caroling.”
In the front row last week, 1st-graders sat spellbound as Brookey’s vocalists put on a show, including soloist Finn Sagal, who earlier this year was named as Songbook Youth Ambassador and who the previous weekend sang the national anthem at the Indianapolis Colts football game.
After one tune, Riley Chang turned to her friend, Audrey Kim, and signaled her appreciation with an enthusiastic thumbs-up. And when the Chamber Singers launched into “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” to close the show, everyone in the room joined in.
“It’s always an appreciative audience,” Stone said. “We do a concert later when we try to invite the parents to sing, but we don’t ever really hear them. But most of the time, the elementary kids start singing the songs. It’s a blast.”