As the old saying goes, "If you’ve got it, flaunt it," which is exactly what the Northminster Children’s Choir is doing with the release of its first CD, "A Joyful Noise." But this choir has a higher purpose: raising money for the Children’s Hospital of Illinois.
Choir Director Kim Holdham said the group began singing together in 2000 as part of Northminster Presbyterian Church’s Wednesday Night Worship program. "The group has grown over the years from 12 to more than 30 singers. The children range in age from first to eighth grade, and they don’t have to audition to join the group. The only requirement is a love for singing and a desire to worship through music," she said.
So how did a church youth choir go from the choir loft to a recording studio? By invitation. "In November 2002, following our performance of ’The Pledge to God/Amazing Grace’ for our congregation, we were approached with an exciting opportunity. Dr. Judy Harris Helm asked if we’d be willing to record the song ’Somewhere’ for her keynote address at the Midwest Association of Young Children’s Symposium in April 2003. After much consideration, we decided to record a full CD featuring all of our favorite songs," Holdham said.
The choir spent six hours in the recording studio in March and April, and some soloists had to return to record their parts, she said. "The parents of the choir members have provided support in many ways. Kevin Curtin plays guitar, Joan McGee plays piano, Beth Jones researched and paid royalties to all of the songwriters, Tina VanderMyde marketed the CD, and several parents paid for studio time."
At the end of the sessions, 11 songs had been recorded: "Day by Day," "Part of the Family," "Siya Humba," "Get Together," "Pledge to God/Amazing Grace," "Do Lord," "Journey Prayer," "Turn Turn Turn," "Somewhere," "Old Time Religion," and "Song of Peace."
About the recording process, singer Kelly Penning said, "It took a long time because any time someone made a mistake, we had to start over again."
"The microphones were really sensitive," said Peyton Curtin. "We had to start a song over because I scratched my shirt."
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Katie Brooks said.
After hearing the finished product, Laura Holdham said, "It turned out a lot better than I thought it would." More importantly, "Are we going to be famous some day?" asked Lauren McGee.
Holdham observed that during each of the two, three-hour recording sessions, the choir did its best work in the second hour. "Before that, the voices were still warning up, and after two hours, the voices were tired and the kids were hungry, thirsty, and impatient. When they would start asking if we were almost finished, I would remind them that every song deserves our best work because a CD lasts forever."
Holdham said the CD has been very well received-both from local celebrities and respected artists all over North America. "Joan Glasgow, a professional singer from Calgary, said, ’I was impressed with the ’Joyful Noise’ CD. It has good production parameters, and I thought the kids did really well with their precision in diction and rhythm. You have some excellent soloists, too. Well done!’"
With the release of "A Joyful Noise," the Northminster Children’s Choir is building on its already superb reputation. "The choir has appeared on the CMN telethon and the Morning Mix and has performed several concerts. They’ve been asked to make more appearances later this summer. One local television station also did a story on the choir the day of our first recording session," Holdham said.
Even better than the notoriety they’re receiving is the money they’re raising for the charity of their own choosing. "I’ve always encouraged the children to be involved in decisions made by the choir," Holdham said. "Several years ago, we had a contest to design our tee shirt and logo, which Haley Jones won. The children’s opinions are considered when choosing a song to sing, and they were asked to vote for where they wanted the raised money to go. They chose the Children’s Hospital of Illinois. Other options included the Heifer Project, VH1 Save the Music, and the Crones-Colitis Foundation. Several children from the choir were given a tour of the Children’s Hospital. Sullivan Curtin said, ’When I saw those tiny babies in the incubators, I was glad we chose the Children’s Hospital.’"
Two members of the Northminster Children’s Choir had personal connections to the Children’s Hospital, Holdham said. "Max Finley was diagnosed with pneumonoccal meningitis in 1999 at age five. He spent 11 days at Children’s Hospital of Illinois. The meningitis left him totally deaf. He and his family began learning American Sign Language, and Max learned how to read lips. In August 1999, he received a cochlear implant, which allows him to hear electronically by delivering electrical impulses to the auditory nerve, which his brain interprets as sound. He was re-implanted in July 2002 with a newer model electrode. This new system has allowed him to hear and understand music better. It was after this new system was implanted that he really began to enjoy music and decided to join the Northminster Children’s Choir. His lip-reading skills have served him well, as he watches the director at all times."
Singer Julie Foulk was diagnosed with Crones-Colitis in 2001 at age eight, Holdham said. "She sang with the choir for the first year but was in and out of the Children’s Hospital, unable to sing, for the entire second year of choir. At the end of every rehearsal, the children said a prayer for Julie. We were thrilled to have her back for our third year."
Holdham said the choir has no immediate plans for making another CD, but the possibility hasn’t been ruled out, especially with the choir’s newfound dedication. "The best part of making the CD was that once we decided to record it, the children became very serious about becoming the best choir they could possibly be. They’ve all improved vocally as a result of this experience."
She said the most challenging aspect of recording was the process of mixing tracks after the initial recording. "It’s fascinating and enjoyable but very time consuming," Holdham said. "We had a very tight deadline for the release of ’Somewhere.’ For future recordings, I’d allow more time for the mixing process."
Members of the Northminster Children’s Choir include: Emilie Brooks, Kate Brooks, Megan Brooks, Bailey Curtin, Peyton Curtin, Sullivan Curtin, Krista DeCeault, Blair Engerman, Max Finley, Julie Foulk, Ryan Foulk, Alex Hoerr, Taylor Hoerr, Laura Holdham, Michelle Holdham, Katelyn Holmer, Alex Jones, Haley Jones, Lauren McGee, Jack McGee, Chloe Morton, Glenna Nickerson, Holland Nickerson, Lauren Northrup, Kelly Penning, Marci Penning, Anna Rohlfing, Sara Schenkel, Tyler Schenkel, Joel Spadin, Jake VanderMyde, Peter VanderMyde, and Taylor Walters.
The CD costs $10 and is available by calling 691-6322. AA!