‘Singing is the vehicle’: Local youth choir rehearses from cars for spring program

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — “Music literacy is our thing, and singing is the vehicle.”

Rehearsals have resumed for Nina Revering’s local youth choir, illumine, but this year the acoustics are a bit more compact and varied, depending on the vehicle her students are sitting in.

The group’s first “car choir” rehearsal was Monday evening. Rotated groups of students sang together, socially distanced from the comfort of their cars, with 16 wired microphones. Inside the vehicles, parents sat in the driver’s seat listening to their kids, who were plugged into headphones and microphones which fed into a sound mixer.

The group’s car choir concept isn’t original. Revering was inspired by a performance she saw on the TODAY Show. She gave the northeast choir a cold call that warmed her heart.

“I picked up the phone and I called them and I did not realize that the person I would be speaking with was someone that knew me from the time I lived in Boston many years ago,” said Revering, illumine’s artistic director.

“We had a long conversation regarding the project and the specs of the equipment and they were super gracious and decided they would be willing to share.”

With the more than 60 pages of specs in her hands, Revering and her team figured out a way to make it work for them to rehearse in-person for its Spring 2021 program. She hopes the new format is engaging for her students, who have only been able to perform virtually on Zoom during a “challenging” 2020.

“It’s a thrill to be able to hear the kids for the first time in nearly a year in the mix with the sound of everyone’s voices together,” Revering said. “It’s something that is near and dear to my heart cause I was a child chorister and that’s how I got my start in my career, and I know from the chatter amongst the families and the kids that the energy is super high. They’re very stoked. They can hardly wait to get here and hear each other again.”

Revering and Assistant Artistic Director Alicia Villarreal are leading the one-hour car choir rehearsals in partnership with Westlake United Methodist Church. The church has offered a nearby site for them to practice.

“It’s a step closer to getting back to who we actually are,” Revering said. “And it’s also keeping the kids singing, which is important… Singing in a choir is not just about makign pretty music, it’s also the community and the friendships and the relationships and being together. There will be tears, there will be tears definitely from me and I bet from some of the mommies and daddies in the cars as well.”

illumine’s Spring 2021 program lasts 12 weeks. It’s a comprehensive music education program that teaches and encourages singing at a very high, classical level with ear training and sightseeing music theory components. Enrollment is still open. They have a younger ensemble for nine through 13-year-olds and an older one for 13 up through high school age. If you know of someone who’s interested, they can enroll on the local youth choir’s website.

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