Since it was founded back in 1956, The Chicago Children’s Choir has grown from a single choir to a vast network of singers across the city. Their latest recording speaks to the resilience of young people working together to raise each other’s voices.
Marc Vitali: From Hyde Park to Humboldt Park, the Chicago Children’s Choir is everywhere — with some young folks still learning about music, and others on a career path.
Now the Choir has joined forces with the Q Brothers for the new record, “Long Way Home,” a musical odyssey and love letter to the city.
Josephine Lee, president, artistic director: We collaborate with so many great artists and cultural institutions in our city, nation and the world. With the Q Brothers, this was a really special, unique opportunity to create with them. So they came in from the beginning to workshop several scenes.
Vitali: That’s because the album began as a stage show, pre-pandemic.
In the theater, the Q Brothers have a reputation for rap adaptations of Shakespeare and more.
JQ, Q Brothers: We’ve been making adaptations of classics for 20 plus years. We’ve always written for ourselves to perform in, and we’ve always done the bare minimum of casting, so four of us play 20-some characters. This is the first time somebody said ‘We have 100 people for you to cast in this and a 100 voices to use that all know how to sing and can sing in eight-part harmonies.’ Like, what a dream!
Lee: The Chicago Children’s Choir was borne out of the Civil Rights movement in 1956. We’ve impacted over 50,000 young people. What started out as one choir in Hyde Park is now a network of over 100. We have partnerships with Chicago Public Schools, and we have afterschool satellites throughout the city.
Vitali: One former student of the choir is the singer KeiyaA, who we spoke with before her performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
KeiyaA: I loved being in the neighborhood choir and my school choir. I think it taught me a lot about what it meant to be exposed to music and community through having to sing, be in tune with your neighbors, and sing the harmony parts, but I think it also taught me a lot about what it means to be a working musician. I’m really grateful for that because I feel like it really seasoned me for now, you know?
Lee: They are all learning how to become not only musicians but global ambassadors, leaders, ambassadors of their neighborhood. That’s the power of music — to unify all of us, right? Despite our differences, religious, sexual orientation or socio-economic, music is this force that brings us all together and connects and unites us and helps us celebrate our shared humanity.
The new record “The Long Way Home” is out now. And this Saturday, Chicago Children’s Choir hosts a virtual concert, “Red Jacket Optional,” which they call “the most inspirational concert of the year.” Special guests include jazz vocalist Kurt Elling and the operatic baritone Jonathan Green.