Fourth-graders will stand alongside 70-year-olds Sunday when three choirs join in "Sing On," a concert that is part of the Minnesota Chorale's Bridges program. In all, four generations of singers will participate in the performance at Westwood Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park.
The wild card in this concert is a new ensemble called "Voices of Experience." Recently formed, it features 15 singers from ages 60 to 86. They will join the chorale and the Minneapolis Youth Chorus, made up of city school students in grades four to eight. The youth group has served for several years as the chorale's educational outreach partner, and artistic director Kathy Salzman Romey was looking for a bookend that would offer seniors a chance to sing.
The chorale decided to form a partnership with MacPhail Center for Music, which has lifelong learning programs and a pipeline to artistic senior citizens. MacPhail provided a venue for rehearsal and the call went out for voices.
"This is an incredible singing community," Romey said. "Anyone who has a desire to sing can find an opportunity."
Voices of Experience rehearsed once a week for 10 weeks at MacPhail under the direction of Mary Kay Geston, director of choirs at Northwestern College in Roseville. The singers have a variety of backgrounds, and Geston said she feels they take the work very seriously.
"I mostly work with college students, but this is different," Geston said. "I feel these singers have more of a stake. It really feels intense. One gentleman wanted to know the order in which we would rehearse pieces so he could specifically be ready."
With an average age of 69, the singers "sound their age," Geston said. It's understandable they don't have the flexibility of younger voices, but she said "what they still have is their artistic skills."
One of the hazards of using senior citizens is that they might leave over the winter. With that in mind, Geston said they'll take a break and start again in March for another 10-week term. New singers are welcome. There is a cost of $15 per 90-minute rehearsal.
The three choirs will sing individually and together in Sunday's concert. Selections will be from Brahms, Mozart, Stephen Paulus and other composers. Romey believes there is mentorship value in having young and old singers on the same program, a view echoed by Patricia Arasim, who directs the 56-voice youth ensemble.
"For my singers, I think what you're going to learn is that singing is a lifetime enrichment," Arasim said. "It's not something that has to do with school or church or a certain age. It's a gift you carry around with you."
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299