The Conservatory hosted “For the Children,” the third annual Operation Breakthrough choral concert benefit on April 13. Created in 1971, Operation Breakthrough is a charitable organization providing care for children of families in need.
The setting, The Visitation Catholic Church on Main Street, was one of the most beautiful settings for a performance. Moments after walking over the cobblestone floor into its cavernous hall, the eye is instantly led upwards to admire the gorgeous painted motifs decorating the ceiling.
Performing in the benefit concert were a select collection of choirs from around the Kansas City area, including the Conservatory, Blue Springs South High School Chamber Choir, Shawnee Mission East High Chamber Choir, Santa Fe Trail Middle School Bel Coro and a group of student musicians from Sunset Ridge Elementary School.
Each choir performed a selection of works including classical compositions by Sergey Rachmanimoff and Franz Shubert, along with songs adapted for choral singing like Sammy Fain’s “I’ll be Seeing You” from 1938 and Joseph Brackett Jr.’s “Simple Gifts” from 1848.
A large portion of the concert was made up of renditions of folk songs from various countries, such as Scotland, England, the United States and China.
At one point during the concert, the musicians of the elementary school came on stage to perform the “Running Etude.” Using an ensemble of xylophones, bongos and drums, the students played a spastic and quick-paced jungle song as members of the elementary choir danced in front of them with large handmade African styled masks.
The Conservatory choir used props later in the concert in a more abstract way during its performance of Eric Witacre’s “Little Birds.” Along with singing lyrics by poet Octavio Paz, choir members at times whistled to imitate bird chirps, and at the end of the piece, every member grabbed a slip of paper from their song book and shook it in the air creating the sound of a flock of birds flying away.Toward the end, all the choirs combined to create a climatic finale with the Swahili Folk Song “Kusimama.” Both the middle school and elementary school choirs were onstage with the elementary musicians playing while the high school and Conservatory choirs stood high in the vestries. This combination performance was electrifying ,creating an enormous and booming sound that completely filled the hall.
This benefit concert demonstrated the incredible versatility of the educational choirs, as well as provided a diverse and worldly selection of songs. Coupled with the setting, it was a beautiful performance benefiting an equally beautiful cause.