‘A room full of angels’: Atlanta Young Singers performing in Anniston
by Benjamin Nunnally
Special to The Star
Feb 23, 2014 | 5423 views |  0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Atlanta Young Singers perform March 2 at the Anniston-Calhoun County Public Library. Submitted photo
Atlanta Young Singers perform March 2 at the Anniston-Calhoun County Public Library. Submitted photo
The voices of the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde ring out at Temple Beth-El in Anniston on a Saturday morning. The choir is here by chance, an extra performance for the kids on their way back to Georgia from a scheduled concert. The impromptu nature of the stop leaves the choir with only two members in the audience, one of whom is temple member Sherry Blanton.

The children sing in Hebrew, a language they don’t understand, but a song they know by heart, and the power of their voices nearly overwhelms Blanton.

“If I had closed my eyes, I would’ve thought I was in a room full of angels,” Blanton said.

Now the choir is returning to the area March 2 for a performance at the Anniston-Calhoun County Public Library. The Training Choir, one of four Atlanta Young Singers choirs, features children in the fourth to sixth grade.

“We’re treating the Anniston performance as if we were getting ready for Carnegie Hall,” said Paige Mathis, music director for the Atlanta Young Singers.

The performance revamps familiar songs into a more classically informed sound. Mathis mentions “The Cup Song,” a heavily covered folk song most recently performed by Anna Kendrick in the movie “Pitch Perfect.” The Training Choir’s version retains familiarity, but adds artistic flourishes that make a big change in how the song sounds.

“We’re riffing on all these things that are common to all of us growing up,” said Mathis.

Growing up is a major part of the AYS program. Children in the second or third grade start off in the Introduction to Music Making Choir, before moving up to the Training Choir, then the Treble Concert Choir and finally the Youth Chorale, which travels abroad to compete at international competitions like this year’s World Choir Games in Latvia. Though the Training Choir performs much closer to home, Mathis views this performance as the first step of many toward broader horizons.

“Music breaks down barriers between people,” she said. “They’ll discover someone 50 miles away has the same love of music that they do, someone 350 miles away, someone 3,500 miles away has the same love.”

The group’s makeup lends itself to a traveling mentality. Members of the Training Choir come from a 50-mile radius around Atlanta, scattered too far for regular rehearsals inside the city. Instead, the kids break into neighborhood rehearsal groups. Each group rehearses the same songs the same ways, and when they come together for big trips, they’re ready to perform like they’ve been a full choir the whole time.

“This performance in Anniston will be unique because the kids don’t get to see each other all the time,” said Mathis. “They’re going to have a lot of energy.”

It’s an energy that captures the heart. Though it’s been some time since the performance at Temple Beth-El, Blanton says she can’t wait to see the children sing again and share her experience with the rest of Anniston.

“They’re so polished to be that young,” she said. “I’m truly excited for Anniston.”

Benjamin Nunnally is a freelance writer in Jacksonville. Contact him at bnunnallystar@gmail.com.

WHAT: Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde performance
WHERE: Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County
WHEN: March 2 at 2 p.m.
TICKETS: Admission is free and open to the public. Call 256-237-8501 for more information.
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