I was thrilled when the youth chorus Kathie sings with performed in our church one Saturday night. Our small, unassuming sanctuary has decent acoustics. The marvelous sound her chorus brought to it was perhaps some of the best to fill its walls, ever. Attendance was good; the pews were nicely filled compared to most Sunday mornings.
This was the third set of concerts for the Salem Community Theatre’s Youth Chorus. Just shy of 20 members, some members have moved on and others joined to replace them as they have learned to make beautiful music together during the not quite 2-year span since they began. Their great sound is developing, thanks to their world class director, Jon Simsic.
Simsic, whose musical credentials are many, has served on the faculties of YSU’s Dana School of Music and Slippery Rock University’s Music Department. He was formerly conductor of the Ohio Boychoir and chorus master and assistant conductor of the Youngtown Symphony. Among his varied musical activities, he currently serves as director of youth music and theater activities for the Salem Community Theatre as well as music director of the Canton Children’s Chorus.
In implementing an educational program giving practical music and musical theater experience to youth of all ages, Jon volunteers his time and musical expertise to work with the talented teens of the SCT Youth Chorus, who all show promise through community theater and other appearances. He works them hard; he is admittedly demanding, and it pays off.
I sat in the front of my church where I was able to watch Jon’s direction of the chorus more clearly than ever before. How could they miss? These bright kids are dedicated to striving toward the perfection that Jon expects. His direction came in a continuous series of passionate contortions. How powerful he seemed with 17 pairs of eyes primed for his control, voices at once powerfully lifting the ceiling off the church, yet, with a single gesture commanding instant, perfect silence.
Not only am I thankful that my daughter is able to share the opportunities the chorus provides, but through their performance travels, I feel fortunate to have experienced churches that I would never have visited otherwise. Some small and quaint like my own; others with ceilings that arc majestically overhead where tones echo with energy; still others new and contemporary like nothing I could have imagined.
I marveled at the resonance of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Canton where the chorus recorded their recent repertoire. The material will be put on CD’s which we’ll sell to help cover the kids expenses for the brief bus tour they are making at the end of this summer. They’re scheduled to sing in Williamsburg and in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. No doubt, some of us parents will tag along for the fun times ahead.