Bach to school

While most teenagers would rather fake the death of a relative than give up their weekend to classical music, the Westside Children’s Choir is more than willing to spend a Saturday afternoon raising their voices in song. In fact, this weekend the group will be hitting the stage at Mount Royal College for a concert sponsored by the Bach Festival Society. Jean Czaja, the founder of Westside Children’s Choir, is optimistic her group of kids will impress all in attendance.

“I think [the audience] will be surprised and entertained,” says Czaja of the choir’s performance. “They will be surprised by our size, our attractive uniforms, and the fact that we will be singing in three different languages.”

Indeed, the choir sings in English, Latin and German. This is not uncommon for the group, and it is not unusual for them to perform both secular and sacred works of music. In this concert alone they will be performing a contemporary English piece, a sacred Latin piece, and, of course, a piece by Bach.

“When we were asked to perform at this concert we were told we didn’t have to do anything by Bach,” explains Czaja. “But I wanted to, so we are performing one.”

Czaja has to be admired for her courage in taking on a piece by Bach to perform with an amateur choir–Bach’s music presents enough difficulties for professional musicians. Czaja, however, is more concerned with the pronunciation of the German language than the complexity of the music.

“I had to be sure of my German,” she admits. “Even after I had gone over the text I had one of the children’s parents correct things I missed.”

Czaja is not unconcerned with the music, but she’s certain the choir is capable of performing the difficult repertoire. After all, coaching in German is ancillary to the musical education these youth are receiving. The members of the choir are instructed by professional musicians, and are constantly pushed to strive for excellence. Of course, this does not mean there aren’t difficulties with some kids and their tuning.

“There are no auditions,” says Czaja. “We accept the children for who they are, and if they are really not in tune then I work with them privately.”

The Westside Children’s Choir is accepting to all children, and promotes opportunity over exclusivity. This means any child can get on stage and sing a note or two, as long as they don’t have any fake funerals to attend.

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