(Keene, NH) The Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs (GMYC) began in 1997 as the Peterborough Children’s Choir, founded by Maria Belva. Recently Belva taped a show on Cheshire Television with Artistic Director, Esther Rhoades, hired in 2014 and promoted in 2017 to replace Belva as she stepped down from the helm of the nonprofit.
Belva shared the chronology of how the organization began, an idea that sprung from a Raylynmor Opera production of “Hansel and Gretel.” As more students found their way to the Choir, they were grouped by ages until there were three children’s choirs. One of these choirs, the Cecilia Ensemble, is comprised of young women in high school who have had the opportunity to travel internationally every two years, singing for audiences in auditoriums, churches and even spontaneously on the street.
This year they are traveling to the Czech Republic in April, performing for six days in various locations ending in Prague, where they will visit the Terezin Concentration Camp. This tour is very special because they will be performing a choral piece that was composed in Terezin by amateur musician, Karel Vrba, called Nezapomen, who was transported to Auschwitz shortly after the piece was completed.
In 2005 the Cecilia Ensemble premiered Nezapomen in Peterborough while touring in Germany and the Czech Republic. This year they will return to perform the piece inside the walls of Terezin, 74 years after it was written. Their send-off concert will be held on April 15, 4:00pm at the Dublin Community Church in Dublin, NH.
In 2017, under the leadership of Artistic Director, Esther R. H. Rhoades, GMYC expanded into Keene with two additional choirs while continuing to direct the two existing Peterborough choirs. Through these four choirs, GMYC provides performance-based choral music education to young singers in the Monadnock Region, grades 2-12, who gain proficiency in music literacy. Guidance provided by Rhoades allows young participants to appropriately adapt their unique, developing strengths. Youth learn how to work as a disciplined team, build personal confidence, strengthen listening skills and enjoy the accomplishments of their hard work. Audiences are delighted with their outstanding choral performances twice annually, spring and fall, in both Keene and Peterborough.
Rhoades is thrilled with the outlook for 2018. “I am one of the lucky few who get to do what I love every day - make music with these young singers by creating a safe environment for children to learn and express themselves. GMYC offers a unique opportunity for youth in the Monadnock Region. We are excited to deepen and expand that experience through the joy of collaboration in our communities.”
GMYC is the performance-based Choral music education program for young singers (Grades 2-12) in the Monadnock Region. We value choral music as essential to growing peace in our community and do not discriminate. Visit the website at www.grandmonadnockyouthchoirs.org, or call 603-313-0052 for more information. Check the Cheshire TV website for broadcast dates and times. http://cheshiretv.org/
The Board of the Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs (GMYC) is pleased to announce that Artistic Director, Esther R. H. Rhoades has been chosen for recognition as a 2018 Trendsetter by the Keene Sentinel and the Keene Young Professionals Network. In its fifth year, the program has recognized over 65 individuals under age 40 who make a positive difference in their workplace or community.
In order to be considered, the nominee had to demonstrate excellence in workplace and community criteria. In 2015, the founder of the Peterborough Children’s Choir, Maria Belva, welcomed Rhoades in order to grow and strengthen the organization founded by Belva in 1997, with the goal of passing on the Directorship of the Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs (GMYC).
With a B.S. in Music/Choral Concentration from the University of Delaware, Rhoades has already developed an impressive resume conducting private and public high school choruses in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, as well as the Keene Unitarian Universalist Church choir. Under her leadership, Rhoades leads five Monadnock Region choruses serving young boys and girls. In Keene: Keene Youth Chorus, grades 2-4 and Elm City Singers grades 5-8. In Peterborough: Trebles grades 2-4, Choristers grades 5-8 and the Cecilia Ensemble for young women, grades 9-12. In 2017, over 100 singers had the opportunity to explore musical composition, performance technique and the joy of accomplishment.
Rhoades continues to build upon a storied history while advancing her unique vision. Involving the choirs with the community through annual events such as the Keene Tree Lighting and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast provide musical opportunities that instill pride and pleasure. Engagement with other choral groups and organizations offers increased collaboration and visibility while underscoring the GMYC mission.
In 2018 the Keene choirs' repertoire will continue to focus on the music of Civil Rights, specifically from The Children's Marchby Andrew Bleckner, collaboratively performed with the Chamber Singers of Keene under the direction of Dr. Matthew Leese. ThePeterborough choirs will be performing music focusing on Human Rights including the South African National Anthem, the Estonian Freedom Song, and the Children's Declaration of Rights.
The artistic leadership Rhoades brings to GMYC represents important growth for the organization. Business and foundation supporters, including the Putnam Foundation, have enabled GMYC to hire administrative staff and build funding capacity in order to serve more singers throughout a broader region of New England. Visit the website at http://www.grandmonadnockyouthchoirs.org/ . Call (603)313-0052 or email email@example.com for more information.
PETERBOROUGH — It was the end of an era for the Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs Sunday afternoon, as members of the group — past and present — shared tears, hugs, memories and song. They gathered on the second floor of the Peterborough Town House for a concert celebrating the nonprofit organization’s 20th anniversary, and to bid farewell to founder and longtime artistic director Maria Belva, who is retiring. Belva and her husband, David Vernier, both of Peterborough, founded the Peterborough Children’s Choir in 1997. The group has since grown to the Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs, comprising the Trebles for children in grades 2 through 4, the Choristers for children in grades 5 through 8 and the Cecilia Ensemble for teenagers
in grades 9 through 12. All three groups are based in Peterborough. Two other groups, based in Keene, are the Keene Youth Chorus, which covers grades 2 through 4, and the Elm City Singers, which covers grades 5 through 8. While each group sang its own assortment of songs Sunday afternoon, they came together on the stage with alumni of the choirs to sing two compositions at the end of the program. The final piece, “Inside the Darkness There is Light,” was commissioned by the choirs in Belva’s honor, and written by her favorite children’s choir composer, Jim Papoulis, Assistant Artistic Director Esther Rhoades explained to the audience of about 300. Read more
After 20 years of nurturing her children's choir and watching it grow, Maria Belva will pass the baton to another director this month.
The Peterborough Children’s Choir, founded by Maria Belva and David Vernier in 1997, was created to give young singers the opportunity to develop their voices while learning the fundamentals: musicianship, music reading and performance among them.
Since then the choir has grown to nearly 100 singers in grades 2 through 12, in five different groups: Trebles and Keene Youth Chorus (grades 2 through 4); Choristers (grades 5 through 8); Elm City Singers (grades 5 through 8) and Cecilia Ensemble (grades 9 through 12). The Cecelia Ensemble travels to Europe every other year for a concert tour – next, for Belva's last tour with the ensemble, the group will perform in the Czech Republic in 2018. Together, they are the Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs.
To honor Belva's work and welcome new artistic director, Esther Rhoades, there will be two concerts this month, the first, this Saturday, May 13, at Keene State College's Redfern Arts Center and the second, Sunday, May 21, at the Peterborough Town House. Titled "In Endless Song," the concerts will feature works by Gerald Finzi, Nick Page and David Vernier, as well as classical pieces by Schubert and Handel. Also in the program is a song by a composer Karel Vrba, who was imprisoned in the Terezín concentration camp and formed a boy's chorus there during World War II.
For the finale of the Peterborough Concert, dozens of alumni will join the five ensembles in singing a commissioned piece by Jim Papoulis and another piece beloved by the choir by the same composer, "Give Us Hope." Former Cecilia Ensemble members will also join current members in their performance of "How Can I Keep from Singing?" by Jane Fjeldsted.
Belva remembers there were 20 children in the choir at the first concert. In those early days, the group performed two concerts a year and has increased to four annual concerts as of three years ago.
"Some of the people who've sung with me are now in their 30s with their own children," said Belva, who is moving to Portland, Maine.
Belva began preparing Rhoades for her departure two years ago. Rhoades, who taught music at ConVal Regional High School and led the school chorus (she has a bachelor's in music and choral education) was a colleague of Belva's at Monadnock Waldorf High School.
"Maria does it all," said Rhoades, which is why it was decided to make Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs a nonprofit organization and have hired a managing director and fundraising consultant.
Rhoades asked Belva if she could start a chorus in Keene, which became Keene Youth Chorus in 2015. "There was so much need for a group like this," she said.
She returned the following year, this time to the board, to request creating a second group, which became Elm City Singers. Over the past two years, the choirs have doubled in size and span 16 towns.
The choir ensembles are popular with audiences, too – both winter concerts this past season were sold out. Together they've performed in a Peterborough Players musical, with Judy Collins at The Colonial Theatre in Keene, and with Raylynmor Opera, the Monadnock Chorus and Keene Chorale. Next, they plan to collaborate with the Chamber Singers of Keene and in Peterborough with the Monadnock Guild of Organists.
Three-quarters of the list of songs the choir will perform at the Keene and Peterborough concerts this month are written by contemporary and local composers (including Peterborough Children’s Choir co-founder David Vernier), some new to the choir ensembles and others performed previously.
"I'll be conducting a concert of my favorites," said Belva of the Peterborough concert, after which she will literally pass the baton to Rhoades. Rhoades will conduct the concert in Keene.
Belva will miss most working with children every week.
"When you're a teacher you watch children mature and grow," she said. "I start teaching these children when they're 7 and I have them in choir until they're 18. I love having that connection to these young people. They are the biggest love of my life besides my own children."
Rhoades knows she has big shoes to fill.
"Maria has done so much for our region," said Rhoades. "She's been able to foster a love of music and create a family that would otherwise not be a family. So many people have gone through her programs and are phenomenal musicians, but more importantly grow into people who affect change in the world and are confident and provide respectful spaces like we provide in rehearsal."
Belva also created a tuition scholarship for choral students Rhoades said will continue in her name.
"She wanted to provide this opportunity to every single child capable of making it into an audition," she said. Rhoades plans to carry on Belva's legacy with the choir ensembles.
"Moving forward I'm hoping to continue to do what we do best, which is teach children choral education, teamwork and civic responsibility by maintaining a commitment to local, national and international choral communities," she said.
The Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs will perform Saturday, May 13, at 3 p.m. at Alumni Recital Hall at Keene State College's Redfern Arts Center and Sunday, May 21, at the 20th anniversary celebration concert at 3 p.m. at the Peterborough Town House. Tickets are $5-$10 for both performances and can be ordered online at GrandMonadnockYouthChoirs.org. All former choir members are invited to join the festivities, which include a reunion reception on Saturday evening, May 20. To register, contact Belva at 924-2055 or visit GrandMonadnockYouthChoirs.org.
The Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs, under the direction of Maria Belva and Esther Rhoades, will present their 20th Annual Holiday Concert on Saturday, December 3rd and Sunday, December 4th. Titled Sure Stars Shining, the concert will include a variety of songs in celebration of the holiday season. Over 100 singers in all five concert choirs will perform: Trebles, Choristers, the Cecilia Ensemble, the Keene Youth Chorus and Elm City Singers—our newest choir section for singers in grades 5-8. On Saturday, the concert will be held in Keene at Keene State College Redfern Arts Center and begins at 6:30 pm. On Sunday, the concert will be held at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church on Main St. in Peterborough and begins at 3:00. Both venues have handicap access. Tickets are on sale at the Toadstool Bookshops in Keene and Peterborough, and at the door. For information call Maria 603-924-2055.
The Cecilia Ensemble, the Grand Monadnock Choir’s high school singers, are about to embark upon a life-changing experience. Next week, the girls will head overseas to France for a tour of historical sites and interesting venues, where they’ll perform several concerts comprised of American music.
Choir director Maria Belva has led similar tours in the past, to other locations in Europe, exposing her singers to the rich history and culture of the old world.
“I think it’s important for us to always connect to history and to connect to other cultures in the world,” Belva said, “because really, we are one world. When we go and we meet people and we sing with other people — they're just people. It really brings it home, especially when we sing, because music is the universal language, and everybody across the world can relate to music.”
Belva has assembled a lineup of music by American composers, all in English, to perform in France. The concerts will include a quartet of Shaker hymns.
00:09 / 00:30SKIP AD“[Shaker hymns] are really very Americana,” Belva said. “It’s really not done anywhere else. The roots are purely from our soil.”
The concerts will also include a new arrangement of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” and the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” among others.
This particular tour is special, as the focal point will be a trip to sing at the American cemetery in Normandy, where thousands of American soldier who died in the D-Day invasion are buried. It’s sure to be a haunting performance and a fitting tribute.
“What a song of hope!” Belva said, of performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow in such a setting. “Judy Garland. Those boys who are lying under those crosses, they know Judy Garland.”
Belva said part of the goal is to link her high school-aged singers to the young men who died in World War II, a generation that at this point is “probably their great-grandfathers.”
The importance of this link was not lost on Cecilia Ensemble member Raven Bartlett.
“It’s hard to put into words the feeling that brings,” Bartlett said. “It’s kind of like you’re making a connection between the ages — people who went and fought for our country and us going and honoring that.”
Bartlett is one choir member who’s already made a similar trip in the past, traveling to Italy to sing. She said she can’t wait to get back to Europe, to perform in high-ceilinged cathedrals with full, rich sound, and experience yet another new culture.
“I think a lot of young people tend to romanticize other countries,” Bartlett said, “and it was interesting to see how there were beautiful coasts and landscapes, but there were also a lot of dilapidated buildings — it was real. The world is bigger than us. It’s not just these magical places you can visit — real people live there.”
Bartlett was bitten by the travel bug on her trip to Italy, something Belva says happens quite often to her young singers when they get their first taste of overseas travel. Perhaps the same thing will happen to choir member Linda French, who’ll be making her first significant trip next week. French said she’s never been outside of the country, save a trip to Canada, and is looking forward to immersing herself in a whole new world — but not, she said, simply to get the best Eiffel Tower selfie.
“I like to experience things before I actually document them,” French said. “You wouldn’t experience it in the same way if you were running around taking pictures of everything. I wouldn’t want to take photos so I can come home and tell my friends about it but not remember why.”
Before they leave, the Cecilia Ensemble will perform a sendoff concert on Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Peterborough Unitarian Church. The show is free, but donations will help offset the cost of the Europe trip. The choir will perform the same songs they’ll sing in France.
“I believe that our choir is full of really talented people,” Bartlett said, “and the sound we create is really incredible. Even if you don’t really listen to choral music, it’s still interesting to listen to the harmonies, and I think we put on a really fun show for the audience.”
A new chorus group for children is forming in Keene and looking for singers.
Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs is adding a section called the Keene Youth Chorus for children in grades 2 through 5, according to a news release from the nonprofit organization.
The organization was founded in 1997 to provide music education and bring together young people who like to sing, according to its website.
Maria Belva, founder and artistic director of Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs, said the chorus is a good opportunity for young musicians to build on the musical training they learn at school.
“It will augment the musical instruction they get in school and it’s really a place for children who absolutely love to sing,” she said.
Being in a chorus will also teach the children team skills, according to Belva.
“When you make music together, you learn about team building,” she said. “It’s like playing on a sports team, except you’re doing something artistic.”
The Keene Youth Chorus will rehearse in Keene and join the other four sections of Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs to perform in Keene and Peterborough throughout the year.
The group’s first performance is Dec. 5 at St. James Episcopal Church on West Street in Keene, at 3 p.m., according to Esther R.H. Rhoades, the director of the Keene Youth Chorus. Then on Dec. 6, the chorus will perform again at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church, also at 3 p.m.
Rehearsals will be Mondays from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Monadnock Waldorf High School in Keene, Rhoades said.
Auditions for the Keene Youth Chorus will take place from Sept. 15 to 17. During the audition, Rhoades said she wants to see if the children can match a pitch and carry a tune. There will be between 25 and 30 spots in the chorus, according to Rhoades.
Once selected, the cost to join the chorus is $200 per semester, but scholarships are available, Rhoades said.
“No one is turned away because of finances,” she said.
If a family has more than one child in the group, the cost is reduced to $150 per semester for the second child, Rhoades said.
Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs’ other sections are the Skylarks, for children from 5 to 7 years old; the Trebles, for grades 2 through 4; the Choristers, for grades 5 through 8; and the Cecilia Ensemble, for girls in grades 9 through 12.
“What we do in the grand Monadnock Youth Choirs is we present the finest music that is written for young voices and that’s really the most important thing,” Belva said.
The experience of participating in a choir also “nurtures a lifelong commitment to artistic expression,” she said.
“And they’re learning a language that has no barriers,” Belva added. “Music is the universal language.”
To schedule an audition, those interested can contact Rhoades at Esther.firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 499-3505. To find more information about Grand Monadnock Youth Choirs and its other singing groups, visit its website at www.gmychoirs.org.
Those who would like to audition for any of the other sections can email Belva at email@example.com, or call her at 924-2055.
Monadnock Ledger Transcript -Benji Rosen
When the Cecilia Ensemble — a choir of high school-age girls from across the region — performed in the Czech Republic in 2005, one of the singers addressed the audience in Czech, to which the audience erupted in applause because a foreigner had learned their language.
In 2007, in the Catalonian region of Spain, another singer from the Cecilia Ensemble spoke Catalan to the audience, after which they also whistled and cheered.
“We become ambassadors of our town, our state and our country — that’s how I see us, as ambassadors,” says Artistic Director Maria Belva. “I like doing things like that. The girls get a sense of what it means to the people there to be a part of their country.”