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Youthful voices bring harmony and melody to first concert
Lanier Young Singers to perform Nov. 16
First Presbyterian Church’s music minister Mike Henry accompanies the Lanier Young Singers. They are, from left: back row Ellie Wingate, Hannah Baumgardner, Amber Ladd, Ashlyn Balch and Ryan Balch; front row, Mariela Gavina, Roy Conway, Matthew Conway and Isabel Hall. - photo by CHELSEY ABERCROMBIE

The Lanier Young Singers concert

When: 3 p.m. Nov. 16

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 800 S. Enota Drive NE, Gainesville

Cost: Free

More info:

Inside a choral room at First Presbyterian Church on South Enota Drive, children clad in school uniforms and regular clothes, old and young alike, all gather around a piano. Their director, a woman in her early 20s, leads them through the highs and lows of several swelling hymns and upbeat songs most people know from childhood.

“Did everybody take vitamins before they came here today?” asked director Hannah Chapman to a bit of laughter.

The harmonies and melodies coming from the group, called the Lanier Young Singers, is surprising even Chapman since it has been practicing for only two months. But she believes the group is ready for its first performance Nov. 16.

“It’s just beautiful, to see children this age, some of them that have never done this before, to sing together that way,” Chapman said. “Hearing children sing that way with young voices, such innocent, sweet, pure voices, it’s beautiful.”

The Lanier Young Singers were the brain child of Mike Henry, director of First Presbyterian Church’s music ministry. He organized the youthful group to educate children about the technical aspects and joys of singing as a choir. He is also the group’s accompanist.

Henry selected Chapman as the group’s director after she was recommended to him by her former professor, a member of the choir at First Presbyterian. In 2009, Chapman graduated from the University of North Georgia with a degree in music. She is a member of the Lanier Chamber Singers and has depths of experience working with children. She has written and directed several children’s musicals and plays.

Chapman and Henry have worked closely with the 12 children, ranging in grades from fourth to ninth, since the first meeting in September. And many of the children didn’t know one another before joining.

“That’s the other thing that’s been cool about it, is watching all these kids who don’t know each other get together and be able to do something unified,” Chapman said.

The group has been practicing twice a week for two months in advance of its first performance. The group’s performance pieces range from spiritual songs to folktale favorites.

Chapman said they’ve become more than performance-ready since their first informational meetings in August.

“Some of them haven’t sung in a group before at all, and maybe half of them have never done anything like this,” Chapman said. “Getting them to come in here and learn about this and have it be a new thing for so many of them, and to get this nice unified sound out of it and have them enjoy singing, it’s amazing.”

At the rehearsal, the children already behave like a group that has been together for a while — they pull out their sheet music without being told and occasionally step forward for solos. Their high-pitched voices glide over the notes of old hymns and contemporary Christian music alike.

“I think people would get a lot out of seeing children really enjoy something like this, and be able to do it together and have a good time,” Chapman said.

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