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When it comes to planning outreach by the organizations in San Diego’s performing arts community,  John Russell is not afraid to think outside the box. As Conductor and Music Director of the San Diego Master Chorale, this Saturday (May 4) Russell is taking his chorus down to  Chula Vista to perform for  elementary students–and their parents and friends–from the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

John Russell [photo courtesy of the performer]

“We already have the Master Chorale’s  successful high school honor choir program,” he noted, “but I have long wanted to reach elementary school students, because this is where the seeds for choral singing are planted.”

But this is more than a run-out concert to the suburbs. Fifty elementary students from the district’s Visual and Performing Arts programs have been prepared to sing with the Master Chorale on several of the works, and the audience will also be invited to sing along on some of the familiar patriotic and popular selections.

“The concert is readily attuned to elementary kids,” Russell explained. “We’ve selected a pretty wide variety of music, from ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Love’s In Need’ to ‘Stand by Me’ to a sacred work by Brahms sung in German.”

The program will be given in Calvary Chapel Chula Vista, 1771 E Palomar Street, at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, May 4.

To further develop his approach with this audience and to emphasize the importance of singing in the life of the community, Russell wrote an introductory preface for the participants of this event, which he agreed to share with the SanDiegoStory readers:

“As singers, we develop empathy, curiosity and learn how to communicate with ourselves and others. Singing in large groups, whether as a choir or at a ball game, is something that can profoundly change how we feel about ourselves, others and the world around us. We learn a great deal by taking the time to craft a beautiful performance, mostly because it requires two valuable and limited resources in our digital culture: time and concentration. When we sing, we engage in communal compassion with ourselves, the music, the audience and each other. The beauty of the choral art form is in its simplicity.

“Today’s program is meant to demonstrate that singing can move and connect people in a variety of ways. Whether it comes from a refined professional choral experience or a large group of friends and family extemporaneously singing a familiar tune, singing can inspire inner dialogue and allow you to understand yourself and the world more clearly. I urge you to pay attention to how you feel when you lend your voice to the masses. What kind of conversation do you have with yourself when you begin to sing ? Answering this question as an adult can give us insight into what has shaped us, what moves and repels us–all essential questions for creating healthy relationships. It is my desire that we can continue to provide these meaningful singing experiences for our children in the hope that the interior conversations they will have with themselves at an early age will help develop their curiosity and empathy for others in the world.”

Ken Herman

Ken Herman

Ken Herman, a classically trained pianist and organist, has covered music for the San Diego Union, the Los Angeles Times' San Diego Edition, and for sandiego.com. He has won numerous awards, including first place for Live Performance and Opera Reviews in the 2017, the 2018, and the 2019 Excellence in Journalism Awards competition held by the San Diego Press Club. A Chicago native, he came to San Diego to pursue a graduate degree and stayed.Read more…

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