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Children's Chorus welcomes new members

Date: 5/24/2013

By Lori Szepelak

SOUTH HADLEY — The South Hadley Children's Chorus is constantly on the move — performing for inter-generational audiences across the Pioneer Valley.

On May 16, chorus members performed at four venues, a concert for kindergarten and first grade children at Plains Elementary School in town, as well as the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, the Holyoke Senior Center, and St. Stanislaus School in Chicopee.

Anyone with a child interested in joining the chorus should contact Cathy Melhorn, chorus director, to arrange for an informal 10-minute audition/interview scheduled for June 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church in town.

"Children need not prepare anything ahead," Melhorn said.

Tryouts for "East Choir," second grade and up, will test a child's ability to match pitch (correctly echo bits of melody) and read words, while tryouts for the "West Choir," grades four to nine, test those skills, as well as the ability to clap or speak simple rhythmic notation and hold their part in a round.

Sponsored by the adult South Hadley Chorale, Melhorn stresses the chorus "provides a structured, fun, encouraging and safe environment for children who enjoy music."

Brian Johnson, whose daughter Kasey has been with the chorus for seven years, echoed those sentiments.

"Kasey has benefited in so many ways from her experiences with the chorus," he said. "The two main things I am most happy about are the dramatic increase in her self-confidence, both on stage and off, and her appreciation of music and the arts."

Johnson added he would recommend the chorus to other parents, noting "it is a positive learning experience for the children and I believe an excellent introduction to both the arts and community service for young kids."

Dick Matteson, whose grandson Cameron Williams is finishing his first year of singing with the chorus, noted he was "very impressed" with the way Melhorn treats the young people in the chorus. Matteson is on the board of the South Hadley Chorale. Before joining the board, he was accompanist of the chorale for three years.

"I've accompanied the group several times in the past, both at concerts and rehearsals, and feel that, although they are children, Cathy Melhorn encourages them to do their best and sets the bar high."

Matteson also encourages parents to consider enrolling their children in the chorus if they have an interest in singing.

"The benefits are numerous," he said, adding, "the opportunity to work with Cathy Melhorn, a very talented musician and choral conductor who cares about the kids; the opportunity to join with other children to work toward a common goal; making beautiful music together; the opportunity to learn to sing properly in a variety of musical styles and languages; the opportunity to participate in a group activity where they all can feel good about what they are doing, and above all, to have a good time doing it."

Children sing age-appropriate music from a variety of cultural traditions, and perform for inter-generational audiences.

The chorus rehearses Wednesday afternoons from early September to mid-May. The annual tuition is $175 with scholarships available.

Melhorn noted that during the past year, the chorus performed public concerts in South Hadley, Springfield, and Northampton, sang the National Anthem at a televised University of Massachusetts men's basketball game in the Mullins Center in Amherst, participated in Big Sing West and WGBY's TV's Together in Song series, and toured to local schools.

"The West Choir also sang Britten's St. Nicolas in the Massachusetts Institute for Technology's Kresge Auditorium with the Cambridge Community Chorus and professional orchestra," Melhorn said.

Melhorn was also proud of the chorus when she added that Big Sing West adjudicator Dr. Christine Noel praised the East Choir's "excellent intonation and stage presence," and the West Choir's "rhythmic precision, clear diction and beautiful tone quality."

For more information on arranging an audition, contact Melhorn at 548-1098 or Children do not have to reside in South Hadley to participate in the chorus.

Melhorn also acknowledged the South Hadley Chorale and the grants from the South Hadley chapter of the Massachusetts Cultural Council for their ongoing support of the chorus.