Wednesday, Mar 06 2013 05:13 PM

Creating a children's choir from scratch

BY SUSAN SCAFFIDI Contributing writer

To perform "Carmina Burana" Saturday evening, the Bakersfield Symphony had to add musicians to the orchestra, and the Bakersfield Masterworks had to combine with the CSUB Singers to have enough singers to create the power and drama of Carl Orff's scenic cantata. They also had to create a children's choir.

While many performing organizations, such as orchestras and opera companies, have established children's choruses, neither the BSO nor Masterworks have such an ensemble. Masterworks president Judy Houston recruited children to serve in the "ragazzi chorus" ("ragazzi" means "boys"). Orff's score calls for children to accompany both the soprano and baritone soloists in second half of the performance.

"It's difficult not having a regular choir that's used to performing," Houston said.

Houston was able to recruit 22 boys and girls ages 6 to 13, many of whom sang for her when she taught at Bakersfield Adventist Academy, or attend Hillcrest Adventist Church. Houston said though the score calls for a choir of boys, this choir includes boys and girls because she couldn't find enough boys who could sing the part.

"The hardest part is the notes," Houston said. "I had to make sure they could sing high enough."

Houston spent most of February working with the children separately from the adult choir. The children joined the entire ensemble this week in the last rehearsals, where they worked first with chorus director Robert Provencio and finally, BSO conductor John Farrer. Provencio's job has been to polish the children's singing, and train them to follow the conductor.

"What if Maestro Farrer decides to (conduct) like this?" Provencio asked the children, while slowing down the tempo.

"I told them no matter what the director does, do what he tells you," Houston said.

At rehearsal this week, the children seemed well prepared as they sang for Provencio, their sweet voices making a sharp contrast to the robust, powerful singing from the adult choristers. The kids appeared to be having a good time. Leslie Martin and Melanie Beasley, both aged 11, thought the music was interesting.

"I like that (the music is) very unique and it's very different," said Emily Stonebraker, 13. "And it's in Latin and it's something you don't hear every day."

"I like that I get to sing with the choir and I like the music and what the words are," said Zacharia Dulcich, 9.

"It's going to be powerful and loud," said Czarina Dayahan, 9.

"I think I'm going to run off stage," said Kylie Houston, 6.

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