Children's chorus gives a capital show

December 30, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

With the last-minute purchase of a black necktie, the Children's Chorus of Carroll County was on its way to a White House debut yesterday.

While tourists strolled through the White House last night during a holiday candlelight open house, a 22-member choir from the countywide singing group entertained them with seasonal songs while wearing their red vests, white shirts, black skirts or trousers and black neckties.

"We can't go to the White House without a tie," said chorus director Idalea Rubin upon learning that one boy had forgotten his. "We'll stop in Owings Mills. We have time."

Rubin, in her 12 years as chorus director, has taken these children places. Two years ago, some of the chorus members sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City. Three years ago, the middle-schoolers sang in the Pageant of Peace on the Ellipse outside the White House.

"It was when the wind chill was 30 degrees or under," remembered Jennifer Forman, 13, an eighth-grader at Northwest Middle School who has sung with the children's chorus since she was in second grade.

This time she could sing without her teeth chattering, in the warmth of the East Room. The choir was scheduled to sing from 5 p.m. to 5: 40 p.m., break for 20 minutes to have refreshments, then sing for another 40 minutes in another room.

As the children gathered to board a chartered bus at a Finksburg shopping center, Rubin insisted on stopping for a necktie but was less concerned that 14 of the students didn't have Santa hats. But there was a Rite Aid store in the shopping center, so a parent dashed in to pick up 14 Santa hats at post-Christmas clearance prices.

Parents couldn't go to this performance because of the strict limit on the number of attendees. Only half the chorus could go.

"I want lots of details," Lisa Blevins told her daughter, Melanie, 11. "I want to know what the White House is like."

The Children's Chorus of Carroll County consists of about 120 children, from second through 12th grades, grouped in several singing choirs, such as madrigals, high school choir and training choruses. The group that was to sing at the White House is specifically for fifth- through eighth-graders whose voices haven't changed yet -- the Bel Cantos.

The full name is Cantare Bel Canto (Italian for "singers of beautiful songs"). The Bel Cantos won the privilege of singing during yesterday's holiday open house at the White House by sending an audition tape this year with the 45 members singing their hearts out.

By Thanksgiving, the good and bad news came: The chorus was invited to sing, but there would be room for only 22 children. Rubin and co-director Diane Jones had the wrenching task of choosing the lucky 22, based on length of time in the chorus, attendance and voice.

"It was a hard choice," Rubin said. "This is a countywide chorus -- they all had to audition to get in already. They are very good."

For Rubin, this has been an especially big year. In September, she took her fifth-grade students at Spring Garden Elementary School to sing the national anthem at Camden Yards before an Orioles game.

Before the school year is over, she will give a presentation to the Maryland State Teachers Association on her research about Maryland folk songs.

Pub Date: 12/30/97

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