August 16, 2013

Debut concerts for young Catholics


---- — PERU — Brenda Smith approached Ron Goddeau about organizing a Catholic youth choir after then-Pope Benedict XVI announced the “Year of Faith” in November 2012.

“People across the world were trying to do something unique to celebrate our faith,” Smith said. “That’s how the whole Joyful Youth Choir came to be. This weekend is a culmination of the ‘Year of Faith’ idea we have in the Keeseville-Peru area.”

The Joyful Youth Choir will give free performances at 7 p.m. Saturday at St. Augustine’s Church in Peru and 7 p.m. Sunday at St. John the Baptist Church in Keeseville.

“It’s something that we’re trying to involve the youth with music,” Smith said. “To our knowledge, it’s never been done before. It’s never been tried.”

The choir began rehearsing contemporary Christian music in early May.

“We met once a week for 12 weeks,” Smith said. “The kids have worked pretty hard. I thought one of the nicest things was two young men never sang a note before they joined up. We started out with 30 kids. We ended up with 16 kids. For such a small, small group, we have enough kids for all sopranos, altos, tenors and baritones.”

Dennis Frisbie, a pianist and conductor, was recruited for dual duty for the fledgling choir.

“Dennis has worked with kids years and years,” Smith said. “He has this joyful way about him, and the kids connect with him. It seemed like it was a perfect match.”

Choir selections include “Glory Bound,” a round that weaves “This Train,” “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”

“Some of them are very inexperienced singers,” Frisbie said. “We have one or two elementary-age (students) to a senior in high school.”

The youth were challenged to prepare and give a concert before the start of a new school year. 

“They’re doing a real eclectic mix,” Frisbie said. “There’s something for everybody. My favorite is ‘Hallelujah’ from ‘Shrek.’ They’re ending the program with ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth,’ a really good song and a powerful way to end the program.”

It was a challenge to assemble the full choir for rehearsals.

“We might have eight or nine,” Frisbie said. “We only have two rehearsals where we had the entire group there instead of different sections. It made it harder on them. They’ve done an amazing job considering the challenges we had.”

When Smith approached Goddeau to help organize the choir, he knew they had to recruit farther afield than Keeseville.

“I knew it wasn’t possible,” Goddeau said. “It wasn’t enough youth. We expanded it into AuSable Forks, Peru and Morrisonville. We ended up with 16 kids, all very good singers. I considered them the cream of the crop. They are the ones who stuck with us. They are amazing, nice kids. They are very pleasant and well-mannered. They are all really good singers and music readers.”

The venture was a great experience for the three adults, with a few surprises along the way.

“The kids teach us,” Smith said. “We’re trying to teach them and think you’re giving, and the kids give back. Most of them are high achievers and are involved in a lot of different organizations. Some were doing a play about a month ago.”

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WHAT: Joyful Youth Choir performance.

WHEN & WHERE: 7 p.m. Saturday at St. Augustine's Church in Peru, and 7 p.m. Sunday at St. John the Baptist Church in Keeseville.