BRIDGEPORT—“I think it’s actually one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” says 17-year old Sarah Almeida, a senior at Immaculate High School, of her participation in the Diocesan Choir for Youth (C4Y).
Seventeen-year old Drew Mitchell of Brookfield, also an Immaculate senior, says that singing in the choir has been a great opportunity for him. “When I heard about the choir, I knew I wanted to join.”
Sarah, a soprano, and Drew, a tenor, will be among the 120 choir members to perform at the “Arise and Shine” Christmas Concert set for Friday December 20, 7:30 pm at the Fairfield University Quick Center for the Arts.
Sarah and Drew and other young people throughout the diocese have been rehearsing with choir director Mary Bozzuti-Higgins for months in preparation for the Christmas concert, which is one of the highlights of the year in the diocese.
December will be the third Christmas concert for both students who look forward to it and enjoy performing for their parents and the community.
Sarah, a Brookfield resident, says that performing in the choir has been a gift to her because she has made many new friends.
“It kind of in a way makes me feel like I’m not alone. I have a bunch of people singing the same thing as me, and everyone’s on the same page. For me this choir is somewhat of an escape from problems in real life, the schoolwork and stress. For the one and a half hours that we rehearse, I’m with people I love and have been with for a long time. The singing is something you’re doing for other people and it feels good.”
Working with Bozzuti-Higgins, a former opera singer and noted choral leader, has helped her to improve her singing voice.
“Mary has helped me to strengthen my voice and to build confidence. She taught me a lot about breathing control—I’ve learned so much from her,” says Sarah.
At this year’s Christmas concert she will be singing the solo of Mary exclaiming the Magnificat. It’s a very tender movement in the Cantata and the entire choir joins with her.
Drew, who runs cross country and track for Immaculate High School, began performing in grammar school and loves singing with a large chorus.
“We get a lot of alumni back from college each year to sing with us, and quite a few guys have joined the choir,” he says. “You don’t think of it when you’re up there—there are so many strong voices behind you. You find your voice in the choir.”
Sarah agrees. Although she admits to a little nervousness before each performance, she takes strength from the choir.
“I always love when I’m performing in a group for people who really want to be there. You feel less nervous, more inclined to go all out with the performance.”
Drew said his favorite song from “Arise and Shine” is “Believe” from The Polar Express. He says the lyrics and music reach out and touch the entire audience.
Both credit choir director Mary Bozzuti-Higgins with being a great teacher coach and mentor. She’s the best—so kind and welcoming to others. She really wants to help everyone out,” says Sarah.
“I love that interaction. She makes you feel wanted and appreciated—it’s awesome,” says Drew.
Sarah plans to attend Western Connecticut State College and pursue a minor in music. She would love to follow in Bozzuti-Higgins’ footsteps and be a high school choral director. Drew loves performing but is headed for Fordham University, where he plans to major in Communications.
What about young people who are interested in joining the choir, but are shy or don’t think their voice is good enough?
“I believe that anyone can sing. I think everyone has the power to have a voice. Maybe some people are born farther into it, but with the right techniques you become better,” says Sarah who encourages young people to join the choir.
“You don’t have to learn on your own. Mary will stay after rehearsal to help you,” says Drew.
Bozzuti-Higgins is encouraging parents to bring young people and their friends to the concert. She believes the excitement and beauty of the Christmas concert will encourage young people to join the choir.
“It’s not about being a perfect voice or musician. The choir is a youth group with music,” Higgins says, noting that new members can join in January before the next semester begins. Rehearsals are held weekly in Bridgeport, Stamford, Wilton and Danbury.
“Also, the time spent in rehearsal and performance count as service hours,” says Bozzuti-Higgins. “This is truly a ministry.” Both Drew and Sarah agree. They say that it makes them feel good knowing that they are bringing happiness and joy to the audience at Christmas and others at different performances during the year.
Bozzuti-Higgins said auditions for the second semester are open to all interested singers in January. Young people interested in joining the choir can go to C4Ysings.com to register and see some additional videos and testimonials.
(General Admission tickets for the Arise and Shine Christmas Concert are $22. Tickets can be purchased at the door; online at www.quickcenter.fairfield.edu; 203.254.4010 or toll-free 1.877.ARTS.396. To learn more about C4Y, please visit the Choir’s webpage: c4ysings.org.)