Many Voices managing directors is Christon Carney, who serves as education and outreach coordinator for Mechanics Hall and performs with the Boston Lyric Opera.
When the call started to go out for fifth- and sixth-graders to join Many Voices: Mechanics Hall Youth Singers in Worcester, the response was something to sing about.
Registration is "up over 70," said Reagan G. Pars, artistic director of the new chorus.
That's not only many new voices, "That's great," he said.
Many Voices will make its concert debut at 4 p.m. Oct. 16 during the Mechanics Hall Founder's Day celebration at Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St. The young singers, accompanied by a small orchestra, will perform the South African song "Remember Me, Forget Me Not" (also known as "Think of Me, Forget Me Not")," and arrangements of Sia's "Unstoppable" and the Ben E. King classic "Stand By Me."
The chorus is a new Mechanics Hall initiative offering Worcester youth a non-audition, no-cost choral opportunity with transportation provided to rehearsals as well as a T-shirt.
Fifth- and sixth-grade students from across the city will develop new skills and gain performance experience in one of the nation’s most prestigious concert halls.
Singing legends such as Leontyne Price and Ella Fitzgerald have performed on the Mechanics Hall stage. Now the Many Voices: Mechanics Hall Singers will stand by their footsteps and perform on the same stage as well.
"Just imagine being a child walking into Mechanics Hall and saying 'I'm going to perform there,'" Paras said. "That is powerful. It's a space that can capture their hopes and dreams, it's that powerful."
“Mechanics Hall has resonated with the sounds of some of the world’s greatest musicians throughout its 165 years," said Kathleen M. Gagne, executive director of Mechanics Hall. "It is entirely fitting that our own city’s youth — the heart and soul of our community — should be included in that distinguished roster of performers. We can’t wait to hear their young voices fill the Great Hall on October 16th."
Paras is director of Music Education and Choral Activities for Anna Maria College and is a conductor, singer and educator who has directed performance tours across the U.S. and abroad. The Many Voices managing director is Christon Carney, who serves as education and outreach coordinator for Mechanics Hall and performs with the Boston Lyric Opera.
Discussions about forming Many Voices began two and a half years ago, Paras said.
"We saw a great need to empower the voices of Worcester youth. There needs to be an ensemble that authentically and accurately represents the beautiful mosaic of cultures that is Worcester. Fifth- and sixth-graders need it most. It's an age when there's a little bit of a drop-off in music participation. This is essential that we offer programs like this. It's important students recognize this stage is theirs," Paras said.
The pandemic delayed the launch, but "gave us a chance to recalibrate out mission and the power that music can have," Paras said. "Chris Carney and I put together a repertoire, put together the handbooks."
The musical goal of Many Voices is to present music from around the world — contemporary and classic — selected with the cultures and music of the chorus participants in mind. The free program gives children of all backgrounds the opportunity to perform at Mechanics Hall — their own "home" concert hall. Any fifth- or sixth-grader living in Worcester or attending school in Worcester can participate. Contact Mechanics Hall at (508) 752-5608 to learn more.
Paras, Carney and a team of volunteers went out and spread the word and handed out flyers. "It was a grass-roots effort," Paras said. "We felt like the Founder's Day performance was the perfect performance day debut for our chorus." There will be three rehearsals before the Oct. 16 performance. Between 60 to 70 children took part in the first rehearsal. "We know that this is the tip of the iceberg," Paras said. Rehearsals are being held at the Worcester Area Mission Societyat 6 Institute Road and at Mechanics Hall.
The singers have access to performers and educators and will be joined on stage by six college musicians who form an orchestra "like a symphonic rock ensemble," Paras said.
The next concert will likely be in the spring and be connected to reading literacy "and celebrating the many cultures that make up the choir," Paras said. However, he'll also be keeping an ear and an eye to how the Oct. 16 performance goes.
"It will guide us as we prepare," Paras said. "We're just scratching the surface. I think the mission is big and the vision is wonderful."
The Mechanics Hall Founders’ Day celebration will take place from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Oct. 16 and will also include a dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. honoring the Ciborowski family, who have generously supported Mechanics Hall for many years, including recent renovations to the main lobby. From 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. the public is invited to participate in the following 20-minute, themed tours of the building: “Art at Mechanics Hall,” “A Look at the Mechanics Hall Architecture,” “The History of Mechanics Hall,” “Who Were the Worcester Mechanics,” and “The Worcester 'Hook' Organ.” At 4 p.m., the debut performance of Many Voices will take place in the Great Hall. Admission to the Founders’ Day event is free; donations will be accepted. For more information, go to www.mechanicshall.org.