It marks the second time the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir (SVCC) has sung by invitation for a U.S. president. It is also the second time the choir was invited to provide music before a crowd of more than 6,000 at the presentation of the Global Nonviolence Award by the Mahatma Gandhi Center at James Madison University (JMU).
The highly-acclaimed Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir will sing at the Sept. 21 ceremony at James Madison University when former president Jimmy Carter receives the Global Nonviolence Award from the Mahatma Gandhi Center at JMU.
The Concert Choir of SVCC, a program of EMU, will sing for Nobel Peace laureate Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at JMU, Monday, Sept. 21. The honor follows the invitation to sing for Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the first award ceremony put on by the Center in Harrisonburg, Va., in fall 2007.
“Having been selected before to sing for a president, we know it is a great honor to have been chosen as the choir for this event,” notes artistic director Julia White.
In 1997 the choir sang at the National Tree Lighting in Washington D.C., with opera star Placido Domingo, Motown singer Martha Reeves and country name Lori Morgan. Actor Gregory Peck hosted that event which was co-led by then-President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton. “It was a huge honor to sing with the U.S. Coast Guard band and brass quintet,” recalls White.
The SVCC Concert Choir (65 children ages 11-17) will be augmented by 13 alumni to make the large chorus of 78 for the award ceremony Sept. 21. The choir will sing “Celebration Medley”, during the academic processional. The medley, a combination of the spirituals “Walk Together Children”, “Every Time” and “Yesu asali awa” was arranged for this event by Celah Pence, a graduate of both EMU and JMU.
In addition, they will sing an arrangement by John Coates, Jr., of President Carter’s favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Accompanist Maurita Eberly will play on “Amazing Grace”. Andrew Richardson, percussionist, will accompany on both selections.
Six months in the making
White and Pence worked for nearly six months preparing for the project. “I wanted it to be celebratory, exciting, and inspiring,” said White. “The final measures of the African folksong are ‘There’s a great camp meeting in the promised land!,’ and it will be a thrill with the high 6-part chord in A Major,” she said.
White recorded this challenging piece with several choristers in early July before the SVCC left for Hawaii where they participated in the 2009 Pacific Rim Children’s Chorus Festival. SVCC staff mailed CDs in early August to the choristers so that they could prepare ahead, having only four rehearsals before the event. Read more about their trip to the Pacific Rim festival…
Choristers come to EMU campus for rehearsal each week from as far away as Page County, Waynesboro and West Virginia. They represent public, private and homeschool settings.
“We are honored to sing for President Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and hope that our musical offerings will add a special excitement to the ceremony,” concludes White. “We are humbled by the task at hand and hope the ceremony is enhanced by the children’s beautiful voices.”