The Evanston Children’s Choir invites all members of the community to celebrate the season at its annual multicultural holiday concert. The free concert, to be held at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 14, will take place at Lake Street Church, 607 Lake St.
The choir, made up of 60 children from 2nd through 12th grade, will be singing songs of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.
“We will be performing in many languages including Swahili, French, Spanish and Hebrew,” says founder and director Gary Geiger. “We will even sing a Bulgarian winter song.”
The Evanston Children’s Choir has grown significantly since its founding in the fall of 2002 but continues to stay committed to its theme of inclusion and diversity.
“We started with just three students,” says Mr. Geiger, a trained pianist. “I thought, ‘This will never work,’ but by January we were up to ten and today we have 60 boys and girls divided into two groups, a main choir and a junior choir. Our hope is to grow to full capacity, which would be 72 children by next season.”
Mr. Geiger says the goal is not only to sing a diverse repertoire of music, but to involve a diverse group of children in the process.
From the beginning, Mr. Geiger said, he knew he wanted to attract a broad cross-section of children. He was aware that the fees were too steep for some families, so he decided to open the doors to those kids who could only pay a small portion, or none at all. An informal survey conducted last year showed the 60 children in the choir came from 29 different schools, including private, public and home schools. The cultural demographics appeared to match that of the City of Evanston’s.
As the Evanston Children’s Choir continues to grow, the children are looking toward some exciting but bittersweet changes. The choir, which has had a long relationship with The Musical Offering, a musical institution that has supported and housed the Evanston Children’s Choir since its inception, has outgrown the space at 743 Custer Ave. and will be moving to a larger location.
“I am thrilled to announce that we have been accepted at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center,” says Mr. Geiger. “A few details are still being worked out, but if everything goes well, we should be in by January.”
Mr. Geiger adds, “I will always be indebted to The Musical Offering and its founder Rick Ferguson. Rick helped us get our feet off the ground and believed in us from the start.”
There seems to be no shortage of new performance opportunities for the choir. Among many other events scheduled this season, Dr. Stephen Alltop, music director and conductor, has invited the Evanston Children’s Choir to sing with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago at the Harris Theater on March 7. The Main Choir will be performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.
The choir even has a local filmmaker putting together a documentary about Mr. Geiger and his young singers.
“I like being in the choir because we learn about new cultures and the songs people sing and it’s fun to learn new languages,” says eight year-old Riley Pranian, who has been a member of the choir for a year and a half. “Gary encourages us to keep moving forward. He wants us to have fun, but tells us to always do our very best.”
Trish Perez, Riley’s mother and vice president of the choir’s board of directors, says what she likes most about the choir is her daughter’s exposure to diversity. “The choir has attracted a unique mix of students from all different backgrounds. I like that the choir has stayed true to its mission and never turns away a child who can’t pay.”
“We have so many wonderful things going on right now,” says Mr. Geiger. “I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams that the choir would become what it is today.”