Watching the sun rise can be such a fusion of promise and inspiration that thinking about it, let alone actually seeing it, can brighten a whole day. It’s remarkable that it happens every morning, all around the world, but that doesn’t make it any less inspiring; it just makes it more difficult to keep up with. It’s a lot like trying to keep up with the many achievements of Chicago Children’s Choir, who only recently completed an impressive and successful undertaking with their performance in Sita Ram, and who are already following it up with another. They’re off to perform in India, on a multi-city tour that will bring audiences there a chance to hear what talent and dedication sound like set to music.
It’s an impressive accomplishment, but at first it may not sound all that difficult to keep up with. Even though this is their first visit to India, Chicago Children’s Choir has been touring internationally for thirty-seven years, and with appearances on Oprah, NBC’s Today, and PBS, millions of people, like all of those who just saw them in Sita Ram, have had the chance to experience their gifted performances. What makes them so hard to keep up with is that, as significant as it is for a group of young singers from across Chicago to be invited to tour India, that’s only a part of the story of this remarkable organization.
The Choir is actually made up of several thousand dedicated young people in Chicago Children’s Choir programs at public schools and in after school programs; the internationally acclaimed Concert Choir is just one of many Choir ensembles. All over the city, for more than half a century, there are actually an uncountable number of Chicago Children’s Choir events taking place. Nobody can keep up with that much promise and inspiration, although the Choir’s own description is a very good place to start. “Founded during the height of the Civil Rights Movement as a way to unite children from different backgrounds,” they explain, “Chicago Children’s Choir is a nonprofit organization committed to providing multicultural choral music education. Chicago Children’s Choir shapes the future by inspiring and educating youth through the pursuit of musical excellence.” The Choir goes on to point out that most of these young people would have no other access to music education, a disturbing reality that makes the Choir’s many achievements even more impactful.
It’s not all that difficult to keep up with Chicago Children’s Choir’s most public achievements. Their tour of India is significant both musically and culturally, not only for those who will see their performances, and also for the forty-five members of the Concert Choir who will perform there. Josephine Lee, the President and Artistic Director of the Choir, emphasizes both dimensions of their tour. “These children are truly the Voice of Chicago,” she observes, “and this tour will give them an opportunity to experience the rich culture of India, while exhibiting the power of music to unite people through our performances and exchanges.” Their performance in Sita Ram, an astonishing multi-company collaboration that the Choir presented in association with Lookingglass Theatre Company, Natya Dance Theatre, and Inappropriate Theatre Company was equally important, and just as widely recognized.
Less publicized, but ultimately at least as significant, are all of the other achievements of each of the young people who are, and have been, part of Chicago Children’s Choir. Nobody could ever keep up with all of those moments, or with all of that music, to say nothing of the friendships and careers that begin with the echoes of those young voices, in after school hallways and in concert halls around the world. It’s remarkable to think that it happens every day, and that it’s been happening for years, but that doesn’t make it any less inspiring. It just makes it more difficult to keep up with, and as it turns out, every one of the moments that the history of Chicago Children’s Choir is made out of is a lot like one of those sunrises. Even if you didn’t actually see it, you can still imagine how it must have brightened a brand new day.