by Rachel Staunton, LYC Artistic Director

“Imagine” says Anthony Trecek-King, Artistic Director of the Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC), “how you would feel if that viral social media photo of the 3 year old Syrian refugee washed up on the beach dead was your son?” He goes on to meet the topic head on with his choir members, who are respectful, intelligent and attentive. After a period of thoughtful discussion, where every member has an equal voice, they sing a specially commissioned choral piece about that very viral picture.

I’ve been going to choir festivals, events, competitions etc. for years now, and it was hand on heart the most emotionally connected singing I have ever witnessed from young people. In the eyes of each singer you could almost see the image of the boy on the beach. With each breath you felt the pain of the refugees clinging onto an overcrowded boat on unknown waters, each with an unknown future ahead. Their unity was powerful, shoulder to shoulder they stood with each other, irrespective of race, tribe, tongue or belief, and they united as humans to deliver their powerful message in the most primal way they knew how, with their voices.

You see, being in a good youth choir can be enough. It can create a tapestry of memories for life, give you a refuge from the pressures of adolescence, and surround you with a new community of friends. It can raise self-esteem, provide peer role models and give teenagers a platform for that all-important creative output, and more. What I took away from BCC is the challenge of how much further we can push the vision for the existence and function of a youth choir.

Is it possible that bringing young people from every walk of life together can really change the future landscape of our city? Is it possible that aspirations can be truly raised and inspire social change? Is it possible for our young people to experience the city they live in more fully? Can our singing together at LYC truly transcend social barriers and celebrate our shared humanity?

The overriding message that the International Youth Choir Festival 2017 declared in a loud voice was one where choirs make this possible.