By Annette Hinkle
Perhaps nothing brightens winter’s darkest nights quite like the songs of the season, especially when they are offered through the voices of children.
Loreen Enright understands the passion many children have for singing. Music, in fact, was a love she discovered as a young child and she regularly dedicated four to six hours of her day practicing piano or one of the many other instruments she played.
Now, this Julliard trained musician teaches voice and piano in Southampton and she is sharing her passion for music with a new generation of singers through the Cantabile Youth Chorus of the Hamptons which she founded in 2010.
In Italian, Cantabile (pronounced kän-tä-bi-l?y) means “in a singing style, melodious and pleasant to the ear,” and the choir’s 20 or so singers (including four boys) are between the ages of 7 and 16. They live from Eastport to Amagansett and at all points in between including Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Hampton Bays, Southampton and Riverhead, and this Friday, the Cantabile Youth Chorus of the Hamptons will be at Christ Episcopal Church in Sag Harbor to perform a holiday concert at 6 p.m.
Music lovers can expect the choir to perform many of the holiday classics, as well as some lesser known and more challenging numbers such as John Rutter’s “Angel Carol” and his “Candlelight Carol” which will be sung by Catalina Badilla and Indira Roth. The choir will also sing “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” in counterpoint (the David Bowie and Bing Crosby did in their version) and Sag Harbor’s Roman Roth (the winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard) will accompany his daughter, Indira, on guitar as she sings “a Bavarian Christmas Carol” in German.
Enright notes that the choir’s concerts always benefit a specific charity, be it a local cause like Katy’s Courage, or one that helps people a world away, such as the beneficiary of this Friday’s concert, the Episcopal Relief Fund, which is working for victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines.
“That’s the inspiration for starting the group,” explains Enright. “It’s not through a church or other group, but kids who love to sing and are passionate who commit themselves for four to six weeks and practice for a cause.”
The choir performs three or four programs a year and there are no auditions. Instead, Enright personally invites singers she has come to know through families and friends to join the choir. Rehearsals take place in the cozy living room of Enright’s Southampton home, often in front of a roaring fire with hot cocoa for all.
The choir sings in three and four part harmony, which can be confusing and difficult for young singers, especially those just starting out in choral music, which is why Enright works with them in groups.
“I try to teach them separately at first then bring them together,” explains Enright. “I’ll start with the 7 to 9 year olds for a couple weeks and teach them about different parts. Then I bring in the sopranos and the altos so they’re all together for the last three or four weeks.”
Along the way, Enright has found that the process of singing together not only builds self-esteem, but it also gives children across the East End an opportunity to get to know others from different school districts in a non-competitive environment.
“It’s a very bonding experience for the kids,” says Enright, who also offers singing workshops during the year through her organization Sandcastle Music Productions. “I would say it gives the children a sense of self and an opportunity to really honor their own uniqueness. They also gain a lot of confidence and meet friends their age from other schools and towns and form such beautiful bonds and friendships.”
“This group of kids and families is kind, committed and giving,” she adds. “It’s all about the kids and I love that. Parents will take turns bringing snacks for them, they sit around the kitchen table and form friendships they never would form had they not done the workshops.”
Enright finds her young choir members also have a sense of commitment that keeps them coming back and growing as singers year after year.
“They really stick with it. I can’t tell you how moving it is to have them want to come back and sing and be part of the different groups,” she says. “They go into high school knowing a lot of music — it’s something that’s different about them. Whether it’s a voice or instrument, music is your own and that can’t be taken away from you. It’s joyful.”
But for Enright, perhaps what is most special about her young singers is the compassion they feel when they work to help someone in need. Enright recalls that when she learned through the Human Resources of the Hamptons of a young girl who had lost her brother, the choir decided to help as a group. Choir members and their parents purchased gift certificates to local grocery stores for the girl and her mother, a single parent, and donated clothing and other items to make life a little easier for them.
“All the kids knew was that they would be helping out this little six-year-old girl whose brother had just died,” says Enright. “The tiny ones were looking up at me with such concern. They gave personal things they loved to this little girl.”
“It takes you out of yourself,” she adds.
The Cantabile Youth Chorus of the Hamptons performs at Sag Harbor’s Christ Episcopal Church on East Union Street and Hampton Street at 6 p.m. this Friday, December 20, 2013. Donations will collected to benefit the Episcopal Relief Fund and victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Members of the Cantabile Youth Chorus of The Hamptons include Catalina Badilla, Joshua Enright Rabin, Stella Frowein, Scarlett Gilmartin-Castillo, Chandler Littleford, Thomas Woods Lawton, Jacqueline Minogue, Natasha Malak, Nathan Malak, Sophia Marano, Allie O’Connor, Dylan Pappas, Ariana Pike, Isabelle Rice, Zoe Richardson, Indira Roth, Molly Scopinich, Alexis Schmidt, Sofia Sosa and Caly Stewart.