I should have known something was up when I first pulled into the parking lot at the Manassas Church of the Brethren.
Cars and vans filled the lots around the church, so I had to park in the overflow area behind the building. About 350 proud parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends, classmates, teachers, musicians and church members had come to see the inaugural concert of the Greater Manassas Children’s Choir on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
I found a place to sit in one of a number of chairs set up along the sides of the sanctuary just as the 17 singers of the younger choir (grades 2-4), directed by Stonewall Middle School choral director Susan Dommer, presented the first of two sets of nine songs which included a Handel piece, nonsense tunes, a song about animals, and one about winter in Virginia–and they sang in at least eight different languages.
The older choir (grades 5-8), directed by Manassas Chorale Artistic Director Rebecca Verner, also presented nine varied songs, also in two sets. (Full disclosure: Becky and I have been married for 42 years.)
The packed house responded as only those who love their singers can, applauding wildly, taking pictures and recording videos.
I was impressed by the purity of tone, articulation, blend, enthusiasm and overall musical abilities of these young people. They comported themselves well, and responded to praise from members of the audience politely and maturely.
The Greater Manassas Children’s Choir an affiliate of the Manassas Chorale, which added the choir to its five-year plan in 2008. Work on the group didn’t begin until 2014 when Verner, Dommer and a number of dedicated volunteer musicians put in about 200 hours selecting music and publicizing the group. They began rehearsals in early September, and Sunday’s concert marked their first full-fledged effort.
I had written earlier that I wasn’t going to listen to secular Christmas songs this year, but these bright, earnest smiling faces changed my mind. Thanks, young people. Thanks for sharing your music and for giving me back my Christmas music.