Youth choir launches holiday season with concerts

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001

The Alaska Youth Choir may be the hardest-working band in Juneau this holiday season.

"This is a very busy month for the choir," said Shelly Smith, business administrator for the 66-member group.

The youth choir performs two concerts this weekend and will participate in the six performances of "King Island Christmas" next week. The group will sing the following week at the governor's open house Christmas party, and will sing for the opening of the state Legislature in January.

The Youth Choir performs at 7 p.m. Saturday at Northern Light United Church and at 4 p.m. Sunday at Aldersgate Methodist Church.

"We'll do a pretty traditional Christmas program," said Director Missouri Smyth. "The music will mostly be Christmas carols."

Songs will include selections from the musical "King Island Christmas," an Israeli piece, a German Christmas carol and a recently-composed piece called "Sanctus," part of a larger work called "Mass for Many Nations" by Rupert Lange.

"The concert is dedicated to those who died in the Sept. 11 tragedy, so the closing number will be sung with the audience - 'America the Beautiful,' " Smyth said.

The Alaska Youth Choir is now in its eighth season. The nonprofit group of mostly teen-age singers performs several annual benefit concerts and holiday and spring concerts each year. Pianists Lorrie Heagy and Jacque Farnsworth serve as accompanists.

The group is split into two choirs, a 23-member resident training choir and a 43-member concert touring choir. The touring choir features the older, more experienced singers. Both groups will perform this weekend, separately and as a mass choir.

Members of both groups also will perform in "King Island Christmas," but in a different configuration. The young singers have been divided into three 21-person groups, and each group will perform at two of the six "King Island Christmas" shows.

Smyth said the choir considered choosing between the holiday concerts or the musical, but the singers were determined to do both.

"There were some concerns about the schedule being too busy," she said. "All (the singers) have risen to the occasion and have been able to handle the music and make the schedule. The kids have been really great; they're staying focused and learning the music."

The concert touring choir has been accepted to perform at the Crescent City Children's Choir Festival in New Orleans the first week of June. Last year the youth choir went to the World Children's Choir Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia, and joined 50 international choirs for performances.

Tickets to the hour-long concerts this weekend are $8, $5 for students and seniors and $20 for a family. A ticket is good for one or both shows, and a reception sponsored by families of the choristers follows each concert.

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