One of the highlights of the past month was a visit to New Zealand by the Colorado Children’s Chorale, an outstanding ensemble of 50 young Americans from the Rocky Mountain State who were enthusiastically received at concerts in Auckland, Christchurch, Rotorua, Napier, and my Kiwi hometown of Lower Hutt.
Founded in 1974, the Chorale trains 500 children between the ages of 7 and 14 each year from more than 180 schools in Colorado. Internationally acclaimed, the Chorale has won numerous awards, performed with world-renowned artists such as Placido Domingo and Zubin Mehta, and entertained dignitaries including Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, and several presidents and emperors.
The group’s repertoire is extensive and challenging, ranging from full operas to traditional classical, folk, and contemporary choral compositions. The Chorale commissions and premiers works by notable composers, and has been broadcast widely on American television as well by the BBC from Royal Albert Hall. And on top of all that artistry, the young singers have a casual but electric, highly engaging charm.
I was unfortunately still en route back from the U.S. when the Chorale stopped in Lower Hutt, but Dr. McWaine hosted a reception at our Residence for the students and their Hutt sponsors, the Chilton Saint James School’s Seraphim Choir. I’m told that the Kiwi and American singers enjoyed having the run of the property and interacted like life-long friends, a chemistry that continued into the evening’s joint concert.
Titled Hands Across the Pacific, the Hutt concert featured the Chorale singing alongside not but Chilton’s Seraphim Choir but the Amadeus Orchestra and Bella Voce choir as well. The auditorium was standing-room only, Dr. McWaine delivered opening remarks, and a diverse program followed. Particularly powerful were performances of Māori-language pieces Kihi Kihi, Hine e Hine, and Hineraukatauri. I continue to hear reports from my Lower Hutt neighbors that it was a grand night to remember.
During the Auckland leg of their tour the Coloradans performed for an enthusiastic crowd at Parklane Village and met the Auckland Boys and Girls Choirs, with whom they later shared the stage at the Raye Freedman Arts Centre. The Chorale gave a solo performance in Napier at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral. Before their concert in Rotorua, they visited a local Māori school and learned additional Māori folk songs.
While on the North Island the students of course made time for sightseeing … including visiting Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland, hiking up Mount Eden, touring the Auckland War Memorial Museum, jet boating on the Waikato River, enjoying Rotorua’s renowned geothermal pools and geysers, and feasting at a traditional Hāngi at the Mitai Māori Village.
The final leg of their journey took the Chorale to the South Island for a performance at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Christchurch, a tour of the idyllic eastern coastline, leisure time on the volcanic beaches at Kaikoura, and a raucous (but of course alcohol-free) farewell dinner at Speight’s Ale House.
From all accounts it was a grand, highly successful, and deeply satisfying tour for everyone involved. Friendships were formed. Lessons were learned. Sights were seen. And once again students proved that great ambassadors come in all sizes and ages.