The Met Opera Chorus Goes Back to School!

The Met Chorus Artists got out of the opera house and into the schoolhouse twice in February to interact with their youngest fans!

 Met Chorister Karen Dixon, Met Orchestra Musicians Kari Docter, Dov Scheindlin, Katherine Fong, and Bruno Eicher, and NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal enthralling a group of Kindergartners at PS 166.

Met Chorister Karen Dixon, Met Orchestra Musicians Kari Docter, Dov Scheindlin, Katherine Fong, and Bruno Eicher, and NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal enthralling a group of Kindergartners at PS 166.

 By Edward Hanlon

     This month, members of the Met Opera Chorus had a couple performances.  Nothing unusual there: we perform up to seven times a week! But these were different; for one, they were in the morning (and I can count the number of musicians who are morning people on one hand) but, more importantly, the average audience was younger… much younger. As you can probably guess, this was not a performance in the Met Opera House. In one, we went to Castle Bridge Elemementary for an Opera Ambush, and, for the other, members of the chorus and orchestra teamed up at The Richard Rodgers School of Arts and Technology, P.S. 166, to perform a “Musical Read-Aloud” — an original score composed to accompany Buzzard and Wren Have a Race, a story from the book A Ring of Tricksters, by Virginia Hamilton. The music was composed by Robert Miller, husband of violinist Elena Barere, and the story was read aloud to children and teachers by New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal and chorus soprano Karen Dixon.

    I’m happy to report that the Musical Read-Aloud was a huge success!  It was a joy to give these children a chance to see how words and music come together to tell a story, and show how musicians listen to each other and work together to create something beautiful! “We’re very excited to play for these young students at PS166!” said cellist Kari Docter. “Countless studies have shown a strong link between music and a strong education. As musicians, parents and teachers, we are committed to strengthening the role music plays in the education of our children, as well as the role the arts play as part of a healthy, inclusive and positive society.”

The Opera Ambush at Castle Bridge Elementary School, up on 169th and St. Nicholas Avenue, was also a huge success with yet another group of kids. Chorister Mary Hughes organized the event, inviting members of the full-time chorus (and some of the extra chorus) to sneak up on a room of students during their regularly scheduled music class with a rousing rendition of "Libiamo" from La Traviata. They have plans to come back later in the season to teach the kids another opera chorus favorite, "Va, Pensiero" from Nabucco.

The teachers seemed to enjoy it as much as their students did! Music teacher Sally Cleaver raved: 

"My fave was hearing Miguery (Grade 1) singing in the bathroom a Dominican, child version of the song...it was so moving and so wonderful and we could have listened to you all day.  More than one teacher told me they 'teared up' when the chorus swelled from behind the kids.  Simeon high fiving one of your singers at the end, Quyen scaring the stitches out of a chorus member her neighbor, Thomas nearly passing out, all day hearing the song sung in various ways in various places. What you guys gave us had and continues to have endless ripples."

She even offers this adorable exchange between a student and teacher during the performance: 

Kindergartner: (turning to teacher after the singing started) "Look!  They are singing Mariachi!"

Teacher:  "I know..so exciting...but it's called opera!" 

 Members of the Met Opera Chorus with teachers from Castle Bridge Elementary School.

Members of the Met Opera Chorus with teachers from Castle Bridge Elementary School.