Young Brookline Singers Hit the Airways
PALS Children's Chorus performs on "From the Top."
When Artistic Director Alysoun Kegel broke the news to the members of Brookline's PALS Children's Chrous that they had been chosen to perform for NPR's prestigious "From the Top" program, the kids were estatic. Kegel and Eleanor Bragg, a 13-year-old singer and composer, had applied to perform on the show and were both also delighted with the good news.
But there was a small glitch.
"I mistakenly told the kids that they were going to be on television," Kegel remembers with a laugh. "Because the program used to be televised. When they found out they weren't going to be on TV, they were a little disappointed, but still thrilled with the opportunity."
"From the Top" is a radio program that celebrates the spirit and talent of young musicians across the country. The one-hour broadcast is hosted by Christopher O'Riley and features interviews with musicians, performances, sketches and games.
But with over 700,000 weekly listeners, the members of PALS chorus needed to bring the thunder. Apart from their regular rehearsals, which are about 2.5 hours long and broken up with dance and drama lessons, the kids and their instructors put in extra time to perfect the performance pieces.
"We don't have a steady rehearsal space so three of the four extra rehearsals took place in kids' livingrooms," Kegel says. "We were like a bunch of sardines. Thirty six people in one room. They had to share folders because there wasn't room for the folders."
The performance and recording took place at Jordan Hall in Boston and, according to Kegel, the children were not nervous at all. Their first song was a piece composed by the young Bragg titled "Who is the East?" which was based on an Emily Dickinson poem of the same name. Bragg, who is a distant decedent of the famous poetess, created the complex and beautiful piece.
The second song was a humorous one describing the many emotions and worries that go into learning and performing a new piece. The singers wonder aloud "Why is the conductor staring at me?" and "When will we get together?"
Kegel hopes that this outstanding opportunity brings even more attention to the 20 year-old PALS chrous, which started out in 1989 when Jody Simpson and Sally Smith, two members of the Lincoln School Arts Committee, brainstormed ways to improve the arts program at the Brookline school. The group has grown, according to Kegel, from 15 kids to about 160. To meet the growing demand, PALS recently had to institute an audition requirement.
"We provide the kids with training in dance and drama as well as music literacy and we do wonderful collaborations with ensembles in the area," Kegel says. "Part of our mission is to perfrom new works and really prepare the kids to take artistic risks and artistic challenges that are posed by cutting edge contemporary art."
Despite no longer needing to squish into a livingroom to rehearse for NPR, the PALS chorus still keeps a busy schedule and will be performing with the Brookline Chorus in the Holiday Celebration Concert on Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. at the All Saints Church in Brookline.