CCMS Ensembles Show How to “Be The Change”

by Jeff Selesnick

For years, choral ensembles have been a flagship offering for Concord Community School. With concerts dotted intermittently throughout the performance calendar, there are regular opportunities to hear these groups perform, each with their own unique makeup and style. On June 1, as part of CCMS’ year-long celebration of its 40th anniversary, for the first time in school history, five different vocal ensembles will come together for the “Be the Change” collaborative choral festival at South Congregational Church in Concord.

The quintet of choral groups features a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and musical styles. The Canterbury Singers, a teens and adults ensemble directed by Kathy Southworth, partners with nearby Canterbury Shaker Village to present authentic Shaker music, as well as American folk songs and early American music. Peggo Horstmann Hodes founded the Northern Lights Women’s Vocal Ensemble in 2018 and the group sings folk, jazz, classical, pop and beyond. The Purple Finches are the youngest of the groups with members ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade and Director Maria Isaak “searching to find balance in the repertoire with pieces that are accessible, will expand the students’ knowledge base, and also stretch them musically.” Jennie O’Brien will lead the Songweavers Women’s Chorus, which will be accompanied by the Songweaver Drummers led by Grace and Lindsey Schust.   Sunset Singers, led by Kathy Burpee, rounds out the represented ensembles.

 “I love the fact that we are all gathering to have a special concert to sing together and to celebrate the 40 years that the school has been here,” says Burpee. Hodes believes “this will create deeper connections between people and voices that is very powerful. We will get to hear and see everyone sing in their own groups, which is something we have never been able to do.”

The idea for the concert was born during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, when the CCMS vocal ensembles (along with the rest of the school’s students) were forced to find creative ways to come together. From finicky Zoom rehearsals to parking lot practice sessions, the ensembles persevered and rallied behind an anthem entitled “We Rise Again” (which will be performed at the concert) that Canterbury Singers director Kathy Southworth hand-picked for the moment.

“I had a vision of all of our singing groups at CCMS performing it together once we were able to sing together again,” recalls Southworth. “I talked about the idea with Maria and Peggo and both agreed that this would be an exciting endeavor if we could pull it off given all the variables.”

Each group has found its own unique way to prepare for this concert nearly four years in the making. Isaak’s Purple Finches, for example, will participate in a single combined rehearsal with the other groups ahead of the concert, but have made good use of practice recordings, Google classroom, and the mentoring structure within the chorus to prepare. “This is always an invaluable experience for many reasons,” notes Isaak. “That concert space will be filled enthusiastic, joyful adults who are rooting for these youngsters and sharing that hope and joy quite directly with them; through performing together and literally singing the same lyrics.”

With all groups eager to share the stage in this celebratory event, the hope is for a shared joyous experience among singers and audiencemembers. “My hope is that the audience will smile broadly, be touched by the sweetness of the sound of all these singers, and feel connected to CCMS in a visceral way,” says Hodes. “And the singers will feel the same as the audience, plus the joy of celebrating CCMS and 40 years of music-making in our home away from home.”

Members of the Northern Lights Women’s Vocal Ensemble prepare for the upcoming “Be the Change” Concert on June 1. Advance ticket purchase is recommended: learn more and order tickets here.