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The Holidays Keep Children's Choir Busy

For children's choirs across the country, the holiday season is a busy time. Choirs are in high demand, so that means choristers and their parents are spending long nights at rehearsals and concerts after school. 

The children at Myer's Park Baptist Church are in the middle of their evening rehearsal. They're standing under 120-foot-high ceilings and intricate stained-glass windows.

Twelve-year-old Madeline Baratta has been singing soprano with the Charlotte Children's Choir for the past five years. She loves being part of the concert choir, but …

"Sometimes it's kind of annoying how we go over everything and everything over and over again [during dress rehearsals]," Baratta says. "That's what kind of annoys me 'cause I mean like I want to go home, I'm tired, I want to go to bed."

When she's not in school, she's involved with basketball, gymnastics and cheerleading. She says it's a good thing she's just in the sixth grade because she's not overwhelmed with homework yet.

Most of the year, the choir is a commitment of two to three hours a week. But after Thanksgiving, these kids are putting in up to 15 hours a week rehearsing and performing in concerts.

That's not counting the hours spent at home practicing the songs. Or the hours parents like Tawana Howard spend, getting costumes ready and driving their children.

"You just have to really budget your time and manage it well," Howard says. "We know well in advance what the schedule is so we just have to prepare."

The children's choir is actually made up of seven groups. But it's the concert choir that's in the highest demand. It's made up of more than 40 kids ages 10-15. Howard is one of the choir's four rehearsal assistants.

"I think it's good that the choir does the majority of the performing is this age group where they're at that level where they are learning how to do time management," Howard says. 

And Charlotte Children's Choir leaders are learning to manage their time better as well.

This year, they have 12 performances in a span of three weeks. Holiday music requests come from all over the city -- local churches, civic groups and companies that make significant donations to the choir. Last year around this time, from the White House. So artistic director Sandy Holland made a few adjustments this year.  

"For Magic of Christmas with the symphony this year, I did three casts: A, B, and C. And then two-thirds of the choir were on and one-third was off," Holland says. "So they had one night rehearsal off and one performance day off."

And she's been more selective lately.

"We get lots of requests this time of year, and you know, if it's to sing outside of a mall next to a fountain, I'm not going to have these kids do that," Holland says. "I'm going to sort of spread the wealth and have some of the younger kids do some of those experiences."

While the kids rehearse, LuAnn Baker helps unload boxes from a van. She says parents volunteer a lot of time.  

Baker's son graduated from the choir recently and her second child, Meghan, is currently in the choir. She says it's always worth it.

"It's just fascinating to hear sounds come out of them that you never thought they would be able to reproduce."

Ten-year-old Brady Sneed is one of the handful of boys in the concert choir. He says the schedule can be exhausting, but he gets all of his homework done before choir practice. 

"I'm actually planning to become a marine biologist but I don't know," Sneed says. "I might be a singer."