Europe Tour 2015: Update #1

Greetings from Germany!

Brandenburg Gate Picture

Students outside the Brandenburg Gate


Everyone is doing well, and after a delicious European breakfast we started the day with a guided city tour of Berlin. Our guide Wolfgang, a native Berliner, told us many interesting facts about the history of the German capital city. The students saw the government center and Parliament building, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and several sections of the Berlin Wall that have been left as a reminder of when Berlin was a divided city. Our guide pointed out the architecture of the cement block structures in the former East Berlin, then showed us the restored palaces, famous museums, the opera house in former East Berlin, and the many modern buildings built where the Berlin Wall once stood. Berlin is a beautiful city with many parks, canals, a river, and lakes.

Students outside Thomaskirche in Leipzig with statue of J.S. Bach

Students outside Thomaskirche in Leipzig with statue of J.S. Bach

We then traveled about 2.5 hours by bus to Leipzig and gave our first performance in the Thomaskirche. The acoustics were amazing and we sang in the side chapel on the steps right in front of Bach’s grave. Bach is buried inside the church and flowers are placed on his grave each day. The concert was all we had hoped it would be, and we were deeply moved by the opportunity to sing Bach’s music in the church where he spent many years as choirmaster. There was a nice audience and an organ concert had just concluded before we performed. There are wonderful statues of Bach and Mendelssohn outside the church. Several Concert Choir parents who are in Europe attended the concert.

Performance at Thomaskirche

Performance at Thomaskirche

After the concert a native guide from Leipzig gave us a musical history tour of the city which included seeing the restaurant where Schumann and Mendelssohn used to meet, the Wagner museum, and Nikolaikirche where the people gathered to protest the communist regime in the 1980’s. These protests lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the peaceful reunification of Germany.

It’s been a perfect day and we are off to walk to dinner now. The students send their happy greetings to their parents, alumni, and friends at home!

More tomorrow from Dresden,
Barbara Berner


Vocal Jazz Summer Camp to begin June 22nd

Beginning June 22nd, Chamber Singers Director Brian Parrish will be leading a brand new summer camp for students in 8th – 12th grade focusing on vocal jazz style and technique. We’re very excited to launch this new program!

Alumni Spotlight – Rachel Honz ’08

Rachel Honz

Make a joyful noise!

My introduction to these words – Make a joyful noise! – came during the fall of 2003, as the Concert Choir prepared an arrangement of “Psalm 100” by René Clausen. I remember instantly falling in love with the piece, and how my choir friends and I could not help but smile every time we sang it. The text and melody were contagiously joyful, and for me represent the precious gift that nine years in The St. Louis Children’s Choirs gave me: an indescribable joy.
Like music, joy transcends countries and cultures. I was blessed with the opportunity to sing on two international tours—London and Wales in 2004 and Australia in 2008.  Making music and connecting with people across the globe changed me forever. In the most poignant way, The St. Louis Children’s Choirs showed me how music has the power to share a message of hope and joy in a world that desperately needs it.
Inspired by Choir memories and mentors, my life since high school graduation has been filled with joyful noises. For two years, I traveled on the east coast of the United States as a member of a music ministry team, reaching out to children and youth. Then I studied music education under René Clausen at Concordia College—and finally sang “Psalm 100” with the composer. Now, I am an ESL teacher living in the province of Henan, China, where my Chinese students have come to expect singing and ukulele-playing as a part of our class. Though our cultures are very different, music has helped bring us together.
Despite the long distances that often keep me from attending as many SLCC concerts as I would like, I still get to sing “We Gather Here Together” in the English church choir I conduct each Sunday. The message of joy in that song can be found in the heart of The St. Louis Children’s Choirs, and is one that everyone needs to hear, whether they live across the street or across the ocean.

Alumni Spotlight – Denys (Freyling) Schaefer ’96

Denys Shaefer


I remember standing in Red Square in Moscow, Russia looking at St. Basil’s Cathedral while on my first tour with the St. Louis Children’s Choirs!  It was 1990.  I was 12 years old and in my third year with the Choirs.  Amazingly, that is only the beginning of wonderful memories over nine total years with the Choirs that included incredible tours, wonderful people, life lessons, and of course, beautiful music.
So many of my childhood memories are linked to this organization, and I am forever grateful for the lasting impression that music has made on my life.  I still remember words to my favorite songs and keep in touch with many of the friends I made.  Ethelyn Sparfeld, the Artistic Director during my time, holds a special place in my heart.  She was a wonderful mentor, her love of music was inspiring, and she made me a better person.  I am thankful for the role the St. Louis Children’s Choirs has played in my life and excited that it continues now as the parent of a young singer.
My daughter Mia is following in my footsteps as a member of Children’s Choir 1A this year.  I am flooded with memories and pride as I listen to her at practice, watch her perform in her first concert and join her onstage to sing “We Gather Here Together”.  I know she is in store for wonderful memories, good friends, and a lifelong love of music.
I have worked in radio for more than 11 years as part of “Allman in the Morning” on FM NEWS TALK 97.1.  While I’m not singing on the radio, I keep listeners “In Touch and Up to Date” on local and national news.  It is a privilege to be on the air in St. Louis, and my time in The St. Louis Children’s Choirs helped prepare me for my career by instilling a strong work ethic, confidence, and dedication to do my job to the best of my ability.