Sacramento Children’s Chorus members belt it out from the Baltics, see the world through group song
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Most students spent their summers sleeping in, but freshman Larkin Barnard Barnard-Bahn, sophomore Monique Lonergan and senior Sylvaine Bucher got up early every day to prepare for their rigorous nine-month schedule at the Sacramento Children’s Chorus (SCC).
The chorus was founded in 1933 as a non-profit organization to provide choral music education for children in the area.
Their music ranges from jazz to gospel to traditional choral pieces.
Barnard-Bahn and Lonergan rehearse for an hour and a half on Tuesdays and Thursdays with their Cantoris choir, comprised of singers from seventh to 10th grade.
Bucher rehearses on Wednesdays for two hours with her Cappella choir, which includes singers from 11th graders to freshmen in college.
By the time Barnard-Bahn joined the chorus in 2015, she was already very experienced; she’s been singing since joining a middle-school chorus at the age of 6 as a first soprano.
At 10, she became a member of the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus, graduating after four years. At 14, Barnard-Bahn wanted to try out for the world-touring chorus at the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus, which is for older girls, but couldn’t when she moved to Sacramento because of her mother’s job.
“My mom researched a chorus in Sacramento because she knew that singing was really important to me,” Barnard-Bahn said.
However, her audition in Sacramento wasn’t formal, she said.
“Since I was in the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus, they didn’t do as much as they would for other people,” she said. “They made me sight-sing and sing my audition piece. They also asked me basic theory questions.”
Barnard-Bahn was selected to be a first soprano in the Cantoris choir.
There are around 40 people in the choir; the majority are girls.
Lonergan is also a first soprano in the Cantoris choir, though she’s been singing with them for eight years.
“It’s just a fun community to be part of,” Lonergan said. “Everyone’s supportive, and it gives opportunities to have new cultural experiences.”
Bucher joined the Capella choir in 2015 after hearing about it from Lonergan. She, like Barnard-Bahn, has been singing since a young age.
Bucher said she’s been in many choral groups since she’s moved a lot.
“Choir has always been a fun and communal process,” Bucher said. “Choral groups are like small families. I love being with others who are also passionate about music and expression.”
Lonergan and Barnard-Bahn said their most memorable experience with the chorus was their two-week trip to the Baltic States last summer.
The Cantoris choir sang in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland. In each country, the group sang one folk song.
In addition to the folk song, the choir sang a song in English and Zulu about world peace.
“Our director (Lynn Stevens) wanted a song about peace, as the Baltics have been controlled by so many countries,” Barnard-Bahn said.
Although the small venue resulted in small crowds, Barnard-Bahn loved the experience.
“You could see their faces light up whenever we sang one of their folk songs,” Barnard-Bahn said.
Barnard-Bahn soloed in an Estonian folk song.
Singing in different languages was difficult, she said.
“We have to understand what we’re singing to evoke emotion,” Barnard-Bahn said.
In addition to performing, the choir swam in the Baltic Sea and went sightseeing.
Cantoris also attended Estonia’s summer solstice festival in Tallinn.
“It was cool to talk to the people hear their current music to see what their lives were like,” Lonergan said.
Not all of their performances are international. One summer there is a regional tour. The next year the choir does a national tour. After that, the choir does an international tour. Then the cycle repeats.
Three years ago, when Lonergan was 12, she went to China with the choir and enjoyed it.
“We just traveled all around China and got to see a bunch of monuments like the Great Wall,” she said. “We also did a lot of concerts.”
Micaela Bennett-Smith, ‘15, also sang in China with SCC and said it was her most memorable experience.
Bennett-Smith joined the chorus when she was in sixth grade and was in it until high-school graduation.
“I joined because my sister (Meredith, ‘05) was in it for years and she really enjoyed it,” Bennett-Smith said. “The chorus’s probably one of the most important organizations I’ve ever been a part of.”
Bennett-Smith attributed her love for SCC to director Stevens.
“She is an amazing person and teacher,” she said. “She taught me how to express emotion through music and the power that holds.”
But Stevens is retiring this year, so members of the chorus don’t know what next summer’s plans are.
That said, Bucher’s most memorable experience wasn’t traveling, but learning from soprano Carrie Hennessey in her Cappella class.
“Whenever Cappella sings operatic pieces, Carrie comes and works with us,” Bucher said. “It’s great hearing her perspectives and advice, as she travels the world performing operas.”
SCC has also made the three more confident.
“I do not get nervous while performing anymore,” Bucher said. “I have learned to stand on stage with confidence and perform with gusto.
“Choir’s always allowed me to feel exhilarated while fully engaged in making something wonderful happen for others and myself.”
The chorus’s latest performance was on Feb. 16 at the American Choral Directors Association Convention in San Jose.
At the performance, they sang for 25 minutes in a church.
“The acoustics were amazing,” Barnard-Bahn said. “You don’t get acoustics like that in Sacramento.”
The chorus had the chance to listen to college groups, too.
Barnard-Bahn said she is too busy to be in the Country Day choir.
“I don’t have time to learn music outside of school since I’m already in a chorus,” she said.
However, Bucher and Lonergan are in the school choir.
Lonergan said that in the smaller school choir she sings less classical music than in SCC.
All three said they want to continue in SCC until they graduate. They also plan to join singing groups in college.
Barnard-Bahn wants to join an a cappella club specifically.
—By Annya Dahmani