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Leverett Community Chorus to perform Sunday

  • The Leverett Community Chorushas grown from 20 to 70 singers since 2002. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    The Leverett Community Chorushas grown from 20 to 70 singers since 2002.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rheannon Stewart, left, and Rosie Dinsmore, both 11, having fun during a rehearsal last week.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Rheannon Stewart, left, and Rosie Dinsmore, both 11, having fun during a rehearsal last week.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anne Louise White, left,  who founded theLeverett Community Chorus 11 years ago, directs the ensemble at a rehearsal, while Rema Boscov, right, prepares to accompany the choir on flute. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Anne Louise White, left, who founded theLeverett Community Chorus 11 years ago, directs the ensemble at a rehearsal, while Rema Boscov, right, prepares to accompany the choir on flute.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Members of the Leverett Community Chorus rehearse last April.<br/>.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Members of the Leverett Community Chorus rehearse last April.
    .
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Aza Wolfwood, 10, says singing in the intergenerational chorus has boosted his confidence. JERREY ROBERTS

    Aza Wolfwood, 10, says singing in the intergenerational chorus has boosted his confidence. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tavi Wolfwood, 13, left, and his brother, Aza Wolfwood, 10, have sung with the Leverett Community Chorus for three years.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Tavi Wolfwood, 13, left, and his brother, Aza Wolfwood, 10, have sung with the Leverett Community Chorus for three years.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Leverett Community Chorushas grown from 20 to 70 singers since 2002. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Rheannon Stewart, left, and Rosie Dinsmore, both 11, having fun during a rehearsal last week.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Anne Louise White, left,  who founded theLeverett Community Chorus 11 years ago, directs the ensemble at a rehearsal, while Rema Boscov, right, prepares to accompany the choir on flute. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Members of the Leverett Community Chorus rehearse last April.<br/>.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Aza Wolfwood, 10, says singing in the intergenerational chorus has boosted his confidence. JERREY ROBERTS
  • Tavi Wolfwood, 13, left, and his brother, Aza Wolfwood, 10, have sung with the Leverett Community Chorus for three years.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

Filling the room with rich harmonies and melodies, the young, and not-so-young, voices of the Leverett Community Chorus are tuned and resonant.

At a recent rehearsal at the First Congregational Church of Leverett, three young girls practiced a Hebrew song, singing in perfect unison. In soft, clear voices they sang, “Henei ma tov umanaim. Shevet achim gam yachad,” which means, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together.” The song was transformed into a round as the other chorus members joined in.

The rehearsal was in preparation for the chorus’ Spring Concert, which will be presented at the church Sunday at 4 p.m.

The chorus was founded in 2002 by Anne Louise White, who is the director, and has grown since then from 20 to 70 singers from around the Valley, ranging in age from 5 to 90. White says she started the group because, at the time, her children didn’t have a chorus at their elementary school in Leverett.

“So I thought, why not start an intergenerational evening chorus?,” White said. Her plan was to direct the group only long enough to find a permanent choral director, but she had so much fun, she says, she decided to stay on.

Since then, she says, community choruses have become more popular and are happening all over the country. White attends summer music camps, where she gets ideas for songs for the chorus, and has traveled internationally with Village Harmony, a singing summer camp program for teenagers and adults.

That impressed 10-year-old chorus member Aza Wolfwood.

“I am hoping music will help me travel all over the world someday, too,” Aza said.

Aza, of Amherst, joined the Leverett Community Chorus three years ago, along with his father, Peter Wood, his mother, Chaia Wolf and his brother, Tavi Wolfwood, 13.

“I’m a “sopralto,” Aza explained. “I’m in between.”

Aza and his family found out about the chorus through White, who was Aza’s music teacher at the Fort River Elementary School in Amherst. He and Tavi, a tenor, say they joined the choir because they love music; each plays a number of instruments including guitar, clarinet and piano.

“The voice is another instrument I wanted to learn,” Aza said. Plus, he added, “Anne makes it really fun. She knows a lot of fun songs and warm-up exercises because she teaches kids,” he said. “But now that I sing in this choir,” he added, “I don’t just sing kid songs. We sing songs from all over the world.”

Aza says he especially appreciates working with singers of all ages, and is happy to have met chorus members that he may have never encountered otherwise.

“It has boosted my confidence being able to sing in front of people I know and who I am comfortable with,” he said.

Aza said the concerts are normally “pretty packed,” and a large portion of the church is filled.

“Sometimes, he said, “Anne will teach part of a song to the audience so everyone can be involved.”

Young at heart

Charles “Chas” Stevenson, 68, of Amherst is new to the chorus. Stevenson, who drives a school bus, says he has attended Leverett Chorus concerts in the past because he knows White through his job. He decided to join this year because he loves to sing. It keeps him young, he says.

Stevenson says he particularly likes the international folk songs the group performs and enjoys the challenge of singing in different languages.

At the concert, the ensemble will sing both contemporary and traditional songs. Their repertoire includes choral works from throughout the world, including Israel, Ireland, South Africa, Japan, Croatia, Ghana, Cuba and North America.

In celebration of spring, the program will also feature a rendition of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s prayer for “Rain,” an Israeli anthem of peace and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Following the concert, audience members will be invited to join the singers in the church garden where the children of the choir will perform a maypole dance to the song “Apple Tree Wassail.” It is based on a traditional form of wassailing practiced in the cider orchards of South West England, White explained.

The intergenerational chorus does not require an audition to join. The group regularly rehearses on Tuesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m., usually at the Leverett Elementary School.

White says the chorus gives adults who may have received negative feedback on their voices as children the chance to gain back their confidence and actually improve without being judged.

The focus of the chorus is about having fun at rehearsals, harmonizing and singing together, she says.

“Singing is a birthright. Everyone should be given the chance to sing.”

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