READING, PA– With the onset of COVID-19 this past spring, it quickly became clear that singing together and performing for an audience filled with family, friends and fans was impossible, even dangerous. At first, the Berks Youth Chorus (BYC) continued to hold rehearsals, virtually, attempting to keep spirits raised and music flowing. And while it was wonderful to see our singers faces and smiles on the screen, something was missing: a purpose.
Anyone who has participated in the performing arts knows that while a season’s journey is filled with memory-making, friendship-forming experiences, it’s the comradery in preparing for that live performance at the end of the season that keeps us coming back for more. “I kept hearing from directors and singers that although rehearsing virtually is a nice social event, not having a goal to work towards has really taken the spark out of rehearsals”, says Amanda Svetlak, executive director of Berks Youth Chorus. “Our singers needed a goal. They needed something to look forward to. So, we met with some of our kids and they had beautiful suggestions like ‘What if we sang for our first responders?’ and ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could stream performances into nursing homes?’. Our singers wanted to use their voices to help others. Now we just needed to create a program that empowered them to do so. Chorus For Causes was born.”
Philanthropy and the arts have walked hand and hand for decades. Concerts, art auctions, telethons, and talent shows have been a part of American fundraising and philanthropy for generations. Even on some of our favorite television shows, performance and philanthropy has been a part of daily life for so many of our beloved characters. From Lucy’s talent shows in I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy, to the Golden Girls many talent shows and telethons, to Stewie and Brian from Family Guy using a musical number to alert their community of a pressing social and political issue. Even off screen, we’ve seen countless celebrity artists using their platforms to bring attention to various social, humanitarian, environmental, and cultural causes from Bob Hope and Bono to Elton John and Lady Gaga.
While using music to raise funds for charity is hardly a novel idea, Chorus For Causes has taken the concept to the next level by incorporating lessons of philanthropy into its curriculum. “We definitely felt like we were inventing something here. The pandemic has forced us into a new frontier of ‘Zoom music-making’ and the singers took it in stride”, says Sam Barge, music director. A recurring topic for the singers of Berks Youth Chorus was COVID-19, the global pandemic that has instantly changed the lives of people around the world.
“Everyone, everywhere, has experienced loss and disappointment of some kind this year, and this is our chance to make things a little bit better”, says Barge. The singers chose to support United Way of Berks County by donating 50% of proceeds raised by their virtual performance to the United Way of Berks County COVID Relief Fund.
As COVID-19 has impacted so many citizens of Berks County, the singers felt strongly about supporting United Way’s efforts to bring meals and resources to people in need throughout the county. This past week, Christine Spanier and Jean Morrow of United Way of Berks attended two of BYC’s rehearsals to meet the singers and tell them more about how the chorus’ efforts were going to help United Way serve the community. “We’re all so thankful that this experience and partnership with United Way will end up helping others”, says Barge following a recent rehearsal. When asked what it was like to be able to sing for charity, Mastersinger and conductor’s assistant Meghan Cramer says, “I love that we get to donate to United Way for this concert because they are such an amazing program and help so many others in our community. Thank you, United Way!”
The fundraising concert titled The Sparrow’s Journey Home will premier on November 23rd at 7:00 pm for the BYC VIPs of the Berks Youth Chorus Concert Fans Facebook group before being shared with the general public on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/berksyouthchorus/?ref=bookmarks and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/berksyouthchorus/.
To make your tax-deductible donation and help the Berks Youth Chorus singers raise much needed funds for United Way of Berks County, click the link below or use the QR code then select Chorus For Causes from the drop down menu before Monday, December 7th. If you would like a receipt for your tax-exempt donation, be sure to share your email or mailing address with BYC while checking out via Paypal. https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=FFXTQNKQET5LG&source=url