On Sunday, August 12, Voices In Praise (VIP) youth choir was joined by VIP alumni to celebrate the group’s 20th anniversary with a rousing 20th Anniversary Retrospective Concert. Sixty young people participated, singing to an enthusiastic audience of almost 300 at Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Dunkirk, Maryland. Mixing relatively simple two-part music from the early years with more recent and far more challenging music, the concert was by turns lively, nostalgic, exciting, and beautiful. Music for the concert was chosen primarily through an online election. Choir families and fans were invited to cast a vote for their favorite songs selected from 20 years’ worth of performances. The winners made it onto the program for the retrospective concert.
To prepare and refresh their memories, all of the singers gathered for an intensive rehearsal on the Saturday before the concert. The director prepared a schedule that outlined when each song would be rehearsed and sent that out ahead of time. Singers rotated in and out of the rehearsal space, as needed. Reynolds-Lee said “There were several pieces that we have done multiple times throughout our group’s history. It was interesting to combine singers from different eras. Saturday’s rehearsal was a whirlwind!”
Voices In Praise was formed by its current director, Holly Reynolds Lee in 1998, under the auspices of Friendship United Methodist Church. From its modest beginning with seven girls, it has grown into a powerful mixed choir of 40-50 young singers. Over the years, they have performed locally as well as touring nationally and internationally to such countries as Russia, Ireland, Canada, and this past June, Belize, sharing their “joyful noise” with thousands. This year the group formed a separate 501(c)3 non-profit organization which will enable it to continue to grow and accept financial donations and grants directly.
Commenting on the anniversary concert, Holly said: “It was amazing to have so many current and alumni singers come together to celebrate 20 years of music. The fact that they can collaborate for a concert like this is a testament to the connective power of music and our program.” It is also a testament to the strong influence this group has on these young people. Throughout the concert, different members of the group spoke about their VIP experience and what it had meant to them. A theme that ran through all of the comments was that participation in VIP changes your life. Iain Sturrock, who was the first boy to join the choir and now serves as an occasional director and instrumentalist, said that his decision to get a doctorate in choral conducting was directly attributable to his early involvement in VIP. It is a group with both vision and passion that clearly speaks to young people and engages them in positive ways.