Greater Richmond Children's Choir
The Greater Richmond Children’s Choir is dedicated to bringing together boys and girls from diverse backgrounds to experience the joy of singing and to gain a life-long love for good music through age-appropriate vocal training. The GRCC strives to nurture the unique gift each child brings, to encourage all to reach for excellence, and ultimately, to create responsible and compassionate citizens of the world. After twenty years, Founding Artistic Director Hope Armstrong Erb was named Artistic Director Emeritus, and veteran GRCC director Crystal Jonkman was named Artistic Director in 2017. Now in its twenty-second season, GRCC includes choristers, ages 8-18 in ensembles representing many different schools in the city of Richmond and the surrounding counties.
The Greater Richmond Children’s Choir is multicultural in its diverse membership, its repertoire, and its audience outreach locally and abroad. GRCC choristers have sung in over forty different languages representing more than fifty different ethnic and religious groups worldwide. In June 2018, GRCC's touring Pro Arte and Cavalieri Choirs made a six day tour taking them to New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. on an American History concert tour. Stops included the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the United Nations, Lower Manhattan, Independence Hall, and the Smithsonian Institute with performances all along the way. In 2016, GRCC made a nine day tour to Berlin Germany and beyond. The tour included performances in Berlin, Spremberg, Dresden, Leipzig, and Halle. The students sang at landmarks like Bach’s own Church of St. Thomas, and performed with other students at local music schools. In 2014 GRCC toured New York City and Montreal, including performances at Carnegie Hall in the Choirs of America AMP Nationals for Childrens’ and Youth Choirs, a Broadway workshop and show, and performances at Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal and Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal. In 2012, thirty-five members of GRCC’s touring choirs, Pro Arte and Cavalieri, traveled to England and Ghana on a tour designed to follow the historic slave trade triangle. The tour included cultural exchanges and performances from Liverpool Cathedral to Cape Coast Castle. In preparation for the tour, Dr. Paul Kwami, native Ghanaian and director of the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers, taught the students Ghanaian songs he arranged especially for GRCC. Travel is an integral part of GRCC’s mission and in 2010 thirty-six GRCC members toured Tennessee and Arkansas where they performed at the Grand Old Opry, Graceland, The Phillips County Boys & Girls Club, and more. And in 2008, fifty GRCC choristers were warmly received by their Chinese hosts when the choir toured Beijing and Shanghai, presenting programs of Chinese and American music for and with groups of Chinese students. Prior tours have also included festivals in Italy, Canada, and Carnegie Hall in New York City where the choirs have received highest accolades.
The Pro Arte Choir of GRCC is recognized as one of the best choirs in the USA having been selected to perform at the national and regional Conventions of the American Choral Directors Association. GRCC was named Best Choir and Hope Armstrong Erb named Best Conductor in the 13th Concorso Internazionale di Canto Corale in Verona, Italy. GRCC has sung at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and performed as the featured choir in the Field Studies International Festival 2000 at Carnegie Hall, NYC.
The choir has performed to full houses and critical acclaim with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Britten’s War Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings, Doug Richards’ A Maré Éncheu and in numerous Holiday Pops concerts. The Greater Richmond Children’s Choir has given premiere performances of compositions and arrangements by Allan Blank, Ben Broening, Fred Cohen, Pete Curry, Hope Armstrong Erb, James Erb, Crystal Jonkman, Kelly Kennedy, Owen Peck, Doug Richards, and more. GRCC members have been seen on national television portraying the “French children’s choir” in the pilot episode of Commander in Chief starring Geena Davis on ABC, in a state-wide commercial for the Virginia Prepaid College Tuition Plan, in a special spot on China TV during the choir’s tour which was broadcast internationally on the English-speaking Channel, live on “King Biscuit Time,” the longest running daily American blues radio show, and live many times on CBS Channel 6 “Virginia This Morning.”
The current season includes a pair of friendship concerts with Lynchburg’s Cantate Youth Choir both here in Richmond and in Lynchburg. GRCC chorister Chadwick Schmalzbach was chosen by competitive audition to perform with the Richmond Symphony in its 2018 holiday performance of The Snowman. Last season, the Cantare Choir sang William Byrd’s Mass for Three Voices to wide acclaim. In prior seasons, the GRCC Pro Arte Choir recorded Britten's Missa Brevis with organist and GRCC director Crystal Jonkman (which will be in an upcoming CD.) Jack Rigdon from the GRCC intermediate Concert Choir was chosen to sing Bernstein's Chichester Psalms solo with the Richmond Symphony, and the Pro Arte and Cavalieri Choirs sang the choruses of fairies and lords in Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta Iolanthe in collaboration with Capitol Opera Richmond and conducted by GRCC director Pete Curry. Other opera collaborations have included full-house performances of Britten's Noye's Fludde with Capitol Opera Richmond, River Road Church Baptist, and a 47-member orchestra of professionals and amateurs, conducted by Ms. Erb in 2014. In 2012, GRCC sang in Capitol Opera Richmond's inaugural production of Puccini's La Boheme. Pro Arte performed in the VCU Opera 60th Anniversary production, Hansel & Gretel, which earned 2nd place in the National Opera Association's 2011 opera production video competition. GRCC co-produced the children's opera Brundibar in 2005 with Virginia Opera, the Virginia Holocaust Museum, and an all-GRCC cast and student orchestra conducted by Ms. Erb in standing-room-only evening performances presented to the general public as well as daytime performances for over 1,000 area school children.
"The musicianship and discipline she (Hope Armstrong Erb) imparts pay dividends to students way beyond the concert hall. I'm continually grateful for my time with her, and I only wish I lived closer so my children could study with her!"
- Mason Bates, Distinguished American Composer, Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence
The GRCC is made up of five choirs to accommodate all singing levels.
Three choirs of boys and girls with soprano and alto voices:
- Treble Choir – entry level
- Concert Choir – intermediate leve
- Pro Arte – advanced level
Two choirs including tenors and basses
- Cavalieri Choir – all-male changed voice choir of tenors and basses
- Cantare – combined Pro Arte and Cavalieri Choirs
The Greater Richmond Children's Choir is dedicated to bringing together boys and girls from diverse backgrounds to experience the joy of singing and to gain a life-long love for good music through age-appropriate vocal training. We strive to nurture the unique gift each child brings, to encourage all to reach for excellence, and ultimately, to create responsible and compassionate citizens of the world.
"The chorus of angelic voices soared to and through the hearts of the crowd."
- Richmond Times-Dispatch
Music is an expression of the human spirit; it gives voice to the divine within us. A positive choral experience creates a strong sense of community and mutual respect while promoting individual strength and self-discipline.
We strive for musical excellence. Every child has potential for musical growth, and every child has a place in the GRCC, regardless of talent or experience. We recognize that the path to excellence is through dedication, self-discipline, and teamwork. Skills developed in choral training are skills for life. Furthermore, students who study music are better prepared for academic rigor. Choristers receive instruction in music theory, sight-singing and ear training. Attention is given to voice placement and healthy use of the body while singing the repertoire and warm-up exercises. Music is memorized for performances.
Music has been called the international language and has the power to bring greater understanding across cultures. The GRCC recognizes the strength to be found in diversity and therefore actively recruits singers from a wide variety of cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Choristers experience a broad range of choral literature including classics, premieres of new music, jazz, spirituals, gospel, musical theater, opera, folk and world music. Students learn about the cultures and languages in which the repertoire was written. The choirs have sung in over forty languages including English, Latin, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Czech, Zulu, Hawaiian, Korean, Hebrew, Georgian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Algonquin, and Elvish!