MACHIAS, Maine — The group of kids, wearing sneakers, sweatshirts, casual capris, scuffs across the room to have a snack of oranges and cookies. They chatter, laugh and take a break from the real work they are doing upstairs at the Centre Street Congregational Church.
Once back before their leader, choral director Christine Guy, it becomes all business and the group of diverse children suddenly transform into a blend of sweet, harmonic voices: the Washington County Children’s Chorus.
“Some of these people will discover that this is what they want to do with the rest of their lives,” Guy said. Several WCCC graduates have gone on to pursue musical careers, including returning to Washington County as music educators.
“It is really critical to keep the art and music cultures alive here in Washington County,” Guy said. “We need to feed the system. When we first started the chorus 15 years ago, it was very hard to bring art and music teachers here that had never experienced Washington County. Wonderfully, that has changed.”
Guy describes the chorus as “a really good gifted and talented program. It is an aspirations program. It opens horizons for these children.”
She said when the group went to Washington, D.C. in 2006, some of the children had never been outside the state of Maine.
“It is an incredible experience and opportunity for them,” Guy said.
The chorusters range from 7 to 17 and come from all along the Washington County coast. The chorus was founded in 1995 by Guy to develop ability of talented youngsters to sing together in harmony.
Guy said all chorusters must audition and demonstrate the ability to match pitches and sing a harmony line. They have published two albums and have performed in Chicago, Washington, D.C., even backing up superstar Judy Collins.
The chorus has a generous following of admirers in Washington County — and in Luxembourg.
The cultural exchange began in 2004 when at the invitation of Luxembourg — whose children’s choir had recently visited Maine and Campobello Island — the chorus traveled abroad to participate in the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Luxembourg at the Battle of the Bulge.
This June, 26 of the chorusters and 23 chaperones and support staff will return to Luxembourg to perform at celebrations all over the country, including the country’s independence celebration and the 750th anniversary of the city of Diekirsch.
They will sing in 1,000-year-old castles and at World War II monument areas. They will participate in torchlight parades and many other unique performance venues.
“There are a large number of people keeping this U.S.-Luxembourg connection alive,” Douglas Guy, a chorus member and director Guy’s husband, said. “The U.S. has liberated Luxembourg three times so there is a great love the U.S. there.” Guy said Luxembourg is a tiny country — smaller than Washington County — but packed with kind people who welcome Maine’s children with open arms.
The chorus will be in Luxembourg from June 16-27 and the group needs to raise $18,000.
A series of fundraisers, including a car wash, performances, open rehearsals and a quilt raffle, are being planned to raise the funds.
One performance will be on Saturday, May 15, when the University of Maine at Machias will hold graduation and dedicate its Schoodic Arts sculpture.
More information about how to donate to the trip or for a schedule of upcoming events can be found at www.washingtoncountychildrenschorus.net, or by contacting Alexandra Mickelinc at 255-8132 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.