For three decades, Diane Jones has served as director of the Children's Chorus of Carroll County, taking the group from a small room at the Carroll Arts Center to Carnegie Hall in New York and abroad. Now, on the group's 30th anniversary, Jones is stepping down after one final community concert.
The gala concert, which will be held Sunday at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster, will feature performances by the choir of classic choral numbers as well as the premiere of a brand new choral piece, "Psalm 46," written by former member D. J. Sparr. In addition to the Children's Chorus, a selection of former members will perform as part of the group's 30th anniversary Alumnae Chorus as well.
Jones said her successor will be named at the gala after the concert that evening. She said it felt like it was the right time to be stepping down.
"It feels good. After all these years, the time is right," Jones said. "Thirty years is plenty of time."
The choir first formed under Jones and Eileen Rubin, who were both teaching at elementary schools at the time. On a trip to a music convention in Philadelphia, the pair saw their first local children's chorus. Jones said they agreed this would be a wonderful addition to the Carroll County artscape, and decided to try and create their own at home.
"There was nothing in this county for kids who loved to sing," Jones said. "There were programs for art and drama and science, but nothing for choral people. I was primarily a pianist, and she was a singer with a rich background. We paired up and started working with the kids."
The choir, which started with about 30 students, has grown over the years to feature more than 150 performers in seven different choirs.
"It just kind of morphed on its own," Jones said. "When we started, we had no grander plan than to just get through the year and have a good time."
Sparr served with the Children's Chorus from nearly the beginning. After performing with the group as a chorus member, he returned in 1993 to compose the choir's first-ever commissioned piece. Now, he's returning again to compose another piece for the group on its 30th anniversary.
Today, Sparr is a working composer and guitarist, and has written pieces for the Albany Symphony Philharmonic and Chicago Youth Symphony orchestras. Sparr said working with the Children's Chorus has helped set him on the path to his current musical career.
"I was always in choruses. That was the beginning of something really integral to my music," Sparr said. "Learning to interact and follow a conductor was very important in my development as a musician."
Sparr said he's been writing music since he first learned to play guitar at the age of 5. When he was in high school, the Children's Chorus contacted him to compose an original piece for one of their concerts. This turned out to be one of his earliest paid pieces.
Sparr's original piece "Psalm 46" places the original Vulgate Latin translation of the Bible verse inside an electronic soundscape created by Sparr.
"It's very moving to me, for a number of reasons, to come back to create another piece," Sparr said. "For one, I'm contributing to the legacy of the Children's Chorus, which is such an important part of Carroll County. Secondly, my grandfather was a very serious Roman Catholic, and this piece is going to be performed in the St. John church. The last time I was there was for his funeral."
Jones said she is excited to see where the future takes the Children's Chorus. She said choirs have a special role to play in society.
"There's a lack of beauty in our culture," Jones said. "Choral music has the potential to give a child a sense of beauty and self-expression. It's an elevating wonderful way to give or vent out emotions."
If you go:
What: 30th anniversary Concert and Gala Celebration
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, April 17
Where: Portico of St. John Parish, 43 Monroe St., Westminster
Cost: Adults, $27.37; children 12 and younger and chorus members, $16.82
For more information: Visit www.ccccnotes.com.