On most Sunday afternoons, 25-35 kids from all over Washington County can be found hanging out in the Centre Street Congregational Church in Machias. They’re there because there’s no where else they’d rather be. They’re there because there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing. Singing.
Sunlight illuminates the seven soaring stained glass windows throwing rainbows on the rows of powder-white pews. An imposing silver-piped organ seemingly stands watch. A 26-bulb chandelier hangs from the center of the ceiling and the blood red carpet provides a dramatic foundation.
And it is all filled with the sweet sound of human voices, working in vocal harmony, and as it turns out, personal harmony as well.
The Washington County Children’s Chorus was created nearly 20 years ago. It’s Director, Christine Guy had set out on a mission to encourage the area’s youth to pursue careers in music education and come back home to teach. “The Chorus is a direct result of that mission,” Guy said.
Made up of roughly 1/3 boys and 2/3 girls, the Chorus members range in age from 2nd grade to high school seniors. Previous members now in college frequently return to participate. All members must pass an audition. The program is open to any youth in Washington County and is completely free of charge. “In an area with limited opportunities for the arts, especially if you’re not wealthy, this is a blessing. “No fee” is a leveling force. I have a child here that loves music, and without the Children’s Chorus he would never have this experience,” one parent shared.
“It’s pure pleasure when we ‘hit it’. The look on their faces when you know, and they know, we just ‘hit it’ is the greatest reward. The instrument we play is the human voice. And this is the collective product,” Guy says.
Asked why they chose to spend almost every Sunday afternoon in a church in Machias the answers from the Chorus kids were all in the same, albeit in a surprisingly insightful vein. “It is my type of meditation.” “It sets me up for the rest of the week.” “This allows me to take a break from being busy, busy, busy.” One member, an extremely confident and eloquent boy, who unabashedly shared that he is blind said “It’s audible, not visual. It’s incredibly helpful for me.”
Visual cues from Director Guy are communicated via touch from his Mother next to him, and increasingly from other Chorus members, who are learning this new “language”.
They all said that this is a family. The big ones like the little ones, and the little ones like the big ones. They all said they would rather sing than do anything else.
The chorus is currently raising funds to “go on tour” in France the end of June. During the 10-day trip they will perform alone and with French musical groups. One of the highlights will be a performance commemorating World War II, and performance at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Donations may be made online through the group’s website or mailed to: Washington County Children’s Chorus, P.O. Box 708, Machias, ME, 04654. For more info see Facebook - “Washington County Children’s Chorus”.
The public is invited to attend an open rehearsal by the Washington County Children’s Chorus at 3 p.m. March 2 at Centre Street Congregational Church.