Youth Chorale tackling original composition focused on building of the Erie Canal

The Capital District Youth Chorale will perform “The E-RI-E Canal” for the first time before an audi

Cassie Girvin and Robert DeCormier are both excited about Sunday’s concert by the Capital District Youth Chorale.

Girvin will be among the 130 singers performing “The E-RI-E Canal” for the first time before an audience. The premiere will take place during the chorale’s 30th anniversary concert — the “Talent Gala” — inside Memorial Chapel at Union College.

“It was written for us,” said Girvin, 17, a senior at Guilderland High School. “It doesn’t happen very often [that] you get to perform a premiere song and set a precedent for that song.”

Capital District Youth Chorale

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Union College Memorial Chapel

HOW MUCH: $5 per person; $15 per family


DeCormier, an American musical conductor, arranger and director, wrote the special arrangement for the piece. He attended the chorale’s Saturday morning rehearsal at the University at Albany, and appreciated the baritones and sopranos who brought his music to life.

“They’re wonderful,” said the 91-year-old DeCormier, who lives in Vermont. “It’s such a pleasure to hear it for the first time so well done.”

The singers, most dressed in T-shirts, shorts and blue jeans, listened to instructions by Diane Brennan Warner, the group’s founder and artistic director. Voices soared as elementary, middle and high-school kids from 58 schools in five counties sang about New York state history.

The young people are looking forward to Sunday’s concert for different reasons.

“I like the concerts, I really like to sing,” said Lillian Hinostroza, 11, a fifth-grader at Birchwood Elementary in Niskayuna. “It’s fun to go up and sing in front of a bunch of people.”

Grace Elliott, 10, a fifth-grader at Westmere Elementary in Guilderland, likes the progress the group has made. The chorale has been rehearsing “E-RI-E” since February.

“The more we get better, the more exciting it gets,” she said. “You sing in front of all these people and it makes me feel proud when they’re clapping for you.”

DeCormier used a break in the rehearsal to talk to the kids about composition ideas, and how music is composed.

“How does somebody paint a picture? How does somebody write a poem?” he asked. “It’s the indefinable thing inside of us that bubbles forth in an expression of your feelings.”

In “The E-RI-E Canal,” singers will tell the story about the construction of the famous canal. And the hardships that came with it.

“We did one on our 25th anniversary,” Warner said of the commissioned pieces. “We try to do this on anniversary years. They get to meet a composer and talk to him.”

The singers are familiar with large audiences — the chorale traditionally plays the Palace Theatre in Albany in December with the Albany Symphony Orchestra. Michael Janower likes the spring gala because the chorale is on its own; there are no accompanying musicians.

For Janower, 18, a senior at Guilderland High School, Sunday’s concert will be bittersweet. It will be his last show.

“It’s going to be really hard,” he said. “I’ve been in this group since the fourth grade; it’s just been such a part of your life — rehearsal every Saturday. It’s like a family, it’s going to be hard to leave.”

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