For four decades, the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay has been an artistic force in the Tampa Bay area, whether as part of choral masterworks concerts with the Florida Orchestra or through memorable self-produced concerts that advance the art of choral singing. For many of these past forty years, the primary audience consisted largely of adult concert-goers.
Although the Chorale has been engaged in supporting choral music education for students in high school, undergraduate and graduate programs all of those 40 years, about three years ago the Chorale began a concerted effort to reach out to a much younger audience. The new Education and Outreach Initiative, conducted by Deah McReynolds, is a program geared to introducing elementary aged children to live choral music performed at a high artistic level. Master Chorale singers have volunteered to sing in the Outreach and Education Ensemble, a smaller ensemble from the larger 150-voice Master Chorale, as part of that initiative and present both in-school interactive choral music education programs as well as day-time and age-appropriate professional concerts at major venues in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
The Chorale also presented some interactive singing. With Deah McReynolds directing, along with Theresa Ancaya as accompanist and Elwood Bond on percussion we introduced three different melodies; “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “I’m Gonna Sing, Sing, Sing”. Each theme was introduced separately, then two themes were sung together by different sections, then three themes were sung together. Each section made different motions based upon the melody we were singing. We even had the children in the audience participate, having them sing “When the Saints”, marching in place as they sang. The children really seemed to enjoy it, and we all even finished together! What fun!
We sang one song that I personally had a feeling would create a buzz with the children. It was “How Far I’ll Go” from the animated Disney film “Moana”. Being a grandfather to six small children put me in touch with how much children love this film. My granddaughter watches this movie every time she visits us, and even though she is not yet in Kindergarten, she knows the lyrics by heart and sings each time Moana sings them in the movie. I loved it when a loud murmur coursed through the audience once Soprano Victoria Iannuzzi began singing the solo line. I could see many children mouthing the lyrics as we sang them on stage, creating a special musical bond between us and them.
Although the Master Chorale provided adult singers for this event, Frontier Elementary was invited to bring their singers as a demonstration choir. Frontier brought a combined ensemble made up of their Honor Chorus and an ensemble with the neat moniker, “The Baby Grands”. Prepared by Chorus Conductor Kate Holmes, they sounded fantastic! They sang “Keep Your Lamps” by Victor Johnson, and then with Master Chorale Alto Kerry Mayo as soloist, they sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.