The Children’s Chorus of Sussex County, under the direction of Founder and Artistic Director, Deborah Mello, recently participated in the East Coast premiere of “To be Certain of the Dawn,” a new work by highly respected composer Stephen Paulus in partnership with lyricist Michael Dennis Browne, at Carnegie Hall. “To Be Certain of the Dawn” is a Holocaust memorial oratorio rooted in themes and subjects of mutual interest to both the Jewish and Christian faith communities. The piece was written in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, and the 40th Anniversary of the Nostra Aetate (In Our Times), a landmark Vatican II document that condemns blaming the Jews for the death of Christ.
The Children’s Chorus of Sussex County (CCSC) was the only children’s choir participating in the performance at Carnegie Hall. They were joined by collegiate and high school choirs, including Summit Christian Academy Choirs, Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Central Community College Choir, Columbus, Nebraska; Lincoln Choral Artists, Nebraska; Nebraska Wesleyan University Choir, Lincoln, Nebraska; University of Nebraska Omaha Concert Choir, Nebraska; Western Nebraska Community College Collegiate Choral, Scottsbluff, Nebraska; South Brunswick High School, Monmouth Junction, New Jersey; Quintessential Vocal Ensemble, St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada; and professional soloists; Eilana Lappalainen, Soprano; Janara Kellerman, Mezzo-Soprano; Alok Kumar, Tenor; Andrew Costello, Bass; Stephen Guggenheim, Cantor; and the New England Symphonic Ensemble Orchestra, conducted by Dr. William Wyman, Director of Choral Activities at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
MidAmerica Productions, Inc. is the foremost independent producer of classical concerts in New York. Norman Dunfee, D.M.A., President and Executive Director, MidAmerica Productions, Inc., noted, “This work was commissioned by the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis as a gift to Temple Israel Synagogue in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps in 1945 and the 40th anniversary of the Vatican document Nostra Aetate. The premiere of the work took place in Minneapolis. The performance at Carnegie Hall served as the New York premiere.”
CCSC is often invited to perform with the MidAmerica organization at Carnegie Hall. “As we moved forward with planning for this concert, we learned that there was an important part for a children’s chorus in the work,” explains Dunfee. “Our intention was to find the best treble voices in the tri-state area that we knew we could count on for commitment and preparation. The first, and only conductor we spoke with was Deborah Mello, with whom we’ve had the pleasure to work with on numerous occasions. Once she was able to look at the musical score and its requirements, she agreed to prepare the chorus for us. The Children’s Chorus of Sussex County was the only treble choir invited and involved in this performance.”
The collaborative performance was so successful that the members of CCSC have been invited to perform the work in Greece during July, 2015.
“The Children’s Chorus of Sussex County has been invited to perform in Carnegie Hall a number of times, but this was the first time we were selected to premiere a new work,” commented Deborah Mello, “We are honored to have been chosen to inaugurate such an important piece. Not only did the children learn their music, but they also received quite an education about the Holocaust and the importance of tolerance as well. We were very excited about the performance and we continue to be grateful to MidAmerica Productions for the opportunity.”
The Children’s Chorus of Sussex County serves school-aged children in and around Sussex County, New Jersey, by providing a comprehensive choral music program. This sequential program has three ensembles: Bel Canto for beginning singers in grades 1 – 4; Bella Voce for intermediate singers in grades 5 – 8; and Concert Choir for advanced singers in grades 7 – 12. The organization will soon launch a beginning music experience, Musikgarten music class for five and six-year-old children. The choirs perform in two annual concerts, and take advantage of different performing opportunities locally and regionally. The Concert Choir has also performed extensively throughout North America and Europe and will travel to British Columbia in July.
The Children’s Chorus of Sussex County will be offering summer camps for children of all ages at Christ Church in Newton from August 11th – 15th. Children entering grades 1 – 6 are invited to attend from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.; students entering grades 7 – 12 can attend from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Younger children will have fun exploring different musical genres, while the older children will work on repertoire from classical and musical theatre, and learn how to prepare for college auditions as well as county, region and state honor choirs.
CCSC is grateful for the support it receives from the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council. To schedule an audition, or to find out more about the Children’s Chorus of Sussex County, call Deborah Mello at 973-670-4556 or visit www.ccscsings.org.