2018-05-10 / Around Town

Choir School Sings Abroad

By Mark Gorman


The Choir School of Newport County will give a free performance on Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m. at Emmanuel Church, 42 Dearborn St. The Choir School of Newport County will give a free performance on Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m. at Emmanuel Church, 42 Dearborn St. If you ask many famous vocalists where they first fell in love with singing, the answer you’ll invariably hear is in the church choir. Whether or not young church singers pursue musical careers, the pure joy of ensemble singing is something that’s never in dispute. For the past three years, the Choir School of Newport County has been collaborating with children’s choirs of three local churches, and the results are impressive.

The school’s mission is to help kids form lives of character and service through the joy and discipline of choral music. The school is made up of 20 young singers from Emmanuel Church, The Zabriskie Memorial Church of St. John The Evangelist and Trinity Church. The St. John’s ensemble is called Professional Choristers and is open to children ages 7 and over. Emmanuel Church’s Angel Choir is for children ages 4-7.

Founding Executive Director, Peter Berton, is particularly excited about the school’s upcoming two-week England Training Tour that will take place from August 1-15.

“Experiencing a different country and culture will be eye-opening, and attending the Chorus Festival, the oldest music festival in Europe, will be ear-opening,” he said.

A London-based choir will travel to Newport to perform a joint concert with the school singers on July 10. In August, both will repeat the concert in London.

To raise funds, Berton developed and is selling a board game called “Newportopoly,” a take-off on the popular Monopoly game. It’s available at local bookstores and by visiting the choirschoolri.org.

Newport This Week recently sat down with Berton to learn about the roots of school. “[Rev.] Humphrey, rector at St. John’s, came up with the idea of collaborating between institutions, and he hired me to build it,” Berton said.

Berton, who grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, first became interested in intergenerational choirs of adults singing alongside children, in graduate school. He worked at St. Thomas Choir School in New York City, the last boarding choir school in the country, and was eventually recruited to develop a choir school in Newport.

“I was attracted to Newport by the opportunity to start such a choir program from scratch, having done that twice before, in a place that wanted it and was prepared to provide the resources it requires,” he said.

On Saturday, May 19, the school will host a concert at Emmanuel Church, with The Newport County Youth Chorus (NCYC) as special guests. The NCYC, in its inaugural year, offers before and after-school programs to second through fourth graders at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center and at Pell Elementary School. This exciting chorus provides exceptional choral music education, while providing mentoring experiences for students from Salve Regina University.

NCYC director Elizabeth Woodhouse is looking forward to next week’s performance. “We’re excited to perform alongside The Choir School…” she said. “We’re enjoying our first year of existence, and sharing performances with other wonderful organizations in Newport is not only a great way to introduce ourselves to the community, but also to inspire NCYC choristers by being able to hear excellent ensembles.”

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