Apr 15, 2014
08:14 AMArts & Entertainment
Notable Lincoln Center Concert’s Only Young Singers—From Connecticut
Over the past 22 seasons, the angelic voices of the aptly named choir Chorus Angelicus have gained them entrance onto some pretty impressive stages – Boston’s Symphony Hall, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the Music Shed in Norfolk and the Warner Theatre in Torrington to name a few.
At the end of March, the group of young singers accomplished another feat, performing at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Singing on that legendary stage, which is the home of the New York Philharmonic, is a dream of many musicians much older than this group.
Chorus Angelicus performed as one of a select few musical ensembles under the direction of rising contemporary composer Eric Whitacre (above). In fact, the Connecticut performers were the only young people in the nation to be invited to perform with adults in the concert, “Defying Gravity,” which combined the legendary music of Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked" being one of his many accomplishments) and some of Whitacre’s own work.
The Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) took place on March 30. (Avery Fisher Hall, below, in photo from Chorus Angelicus Facebook page)
“It was amazing for me to be at Lincoln Center in New York City. It’s the mecca for any classical musician,” says Chorus Angelicus Artistic Director Gabriel Lofvall. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I was looking at my young singers and thinking, if this is what I’m feeling, imagine what the experience must be like for them.”
Unforgettable is one word to describe the experience. for Chorus Angelicus, which is in residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Torrington. Unique is another, given that all the other invited performers were college-age and adult singers.
“Our little ones got prime seats. They were shorter so they were in the front rows, five feet away from Eric,” says Lofvall. “I could see they were enjoying themselves immensely.”
During the Sunday concert, the group performed 11 songs – six short pieces called “Animal Crackers” and five longer songs. As part of their preparation for the performance, the group was expected to memorize every number.
The road to the stage began a year ago when Valerie Vandermeer, a parent of a Senior Choir member, heard about DCINY’s call for choirs and inquired about auditions. The group sent a series of Youtube videos depicting their performances to the organization.
Last fall they received a formal invitation to participate and so began a rigorous six months of preparation.
Rigorous practice has always been part of the Chorus Angelicus program. It contributes to the impressive sound they’re able to achieve with even their youngest choir.
Children from around New England audition to be a part of Chorus Angelicus. Some start as young as age four in the Training Choir. Over the years and through a series of auditions they can move up to Advanced Training Choir, Junior Choir and finally Senior Choir.
(Junior and Senior Choirs, above, in photo from their Facebook page. Training Choir pictured below.)
The ensembles practice twice a week, taking their rehearsal time very seriously. The choir is “just like a sport,” says Lofvall. “We are a team. Our sound hinges heavily on all of us being there.”
Lofvall, who hails from Argentina and has a true passion for choral music, joined as artistic director three years ago. His goal is to provide a musical education in his young singers, but more importantly, he hopes to instill a joy in them.
In order to do that, he integrates contemporary and original compositions with the traditional choral standards. He believes in “pushing the envelope” within the genre to make it exciting for the kids and accessible for listeners.
The group performs about 25 concerts each year and works on a number of side projects too.
Last November, Chorus Angelicus premiered Brian Coughlin's "Requiem" with the composer and his contemporary musical chamber group, the Fireworks Ensemble. They have been asked to professionally record the piece at the end of this year.
Like all arts programs, Chorus Angelicus survives on a healthy mix of participation and donations.
“Just send us your children,” he says with a laugh. “That’s our first way to keep it alive, [but] we need patrons who know about what we do and want to support our cause…This is our 22nd season and we hope to be around for many more.”