If I could change one thing about myself, I would like the ability to sing. I don’t even sing “Happy Birthday” because the sound of my own voice hurts my ears. I think people who can sing are magical; that’s why I enjoyed speaking with Anne Saxon, the director of the Winston-Salem Girls Chorus.
This summer they will hold their 17th annual choir camp at Centenary UMC. It’s the week of July 30 from 9 am to 1 pm, for girls age 8-14. At $95 this camp is a great deal.
Over the years not much has changed, but Anne has worked to clarify goals and has become more intentional about what she wants the campers to accomplish. The chorus became exclusively female a few years ago. This allows the group to focus on girls’ empowerment and bonding, as well as talk about issues that may be uncomfortable in a mixed setting. It also eliminated the complexity of coaching boys through teenage voice changes. Girls’ vocal chords actually change during puberty also, which does affect their singing, albeit not as much.
A Typical Day
The first 75 minutes is spent singing and rehearsing. Repertoire usually includes a piece like “I Dreamed a Dream,” a simple Bach or Scarlatti piece, a folk song like “Froggie Went a-Courtin’, a patriotic song like “America the Beautiful,” and a Broadway show tune. The varied selection keeps the girls engaged and introduces them to new styles.
But it’s not just about singing! A guest musician visits each day to teach the campers about other aspects of making music. There may be a bluegrass fiddler or dulcimer player, a symphony member, or the organist from the church for a pipe organ demonstration.
The group also has access to the church’s handbell collection, so there is a daily handbell session. Handbells are super fun and are a good teaching tool, both in terms of ensemble playing and rhythm.
The girls also work on rhythm and learning how to listen for changing beats and melodies during the creative movement class.
Finally, 45 minutes of more singing wraps up the day.
Campers perform for parents, friends, and others on Friday afternoon, and the Sharing Concert includes the handbell and creative movement pieces the girls worked on during the week. They also perform on Thursday for the church’s respite/memory care program.
Who attends Chorus Camp?
It’s perfect for anyone who loves to sing! There are 30-35 spots each year. Many girls from the school year program come and enjoy the lighter, less serious music. For others, it’s a great introduction to the Girls Chorus and they get to meet some like-minded peers.
Don’t worry if your child doesn’t read music or has never sung in a group before. Less-experienced girls are paired with veterans and learn how to follow the words on the page and musical directions.
School year program
The Girls Chorus is open to 2nd-12th graders by audition; there are three levels. They meet once a week and perform about every six weeks at venues like the Reynolda House, an annual weekend festival with other auditioned choruses, and even for the Harlem Globetrotters.
About the Director
Anne says the summer camp is her favorite annual event. She gets to work with the girls first thing in the morning when they are fresh and energetic.
She grew up near Kernersville and attended Greensboro College for Music Education and UNC Greensboro for a Master of Choral Conducting. She is the Executive Director/past President of the NC Chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association and an active member of the NC Music Educators’ Association. Anne is also a frequent guest conductor and piano accompanist for state and county Honor and Festival Choirs, and an adjudicator for choral festivals.
Besides running the Girls Chorus, she is also the director of the Children’s and Youth Choir Program at Home Moravian Church.
How to Register
Visit the summer camp page and download the brochure. Simply complete the attached registration form and mail it with a check.