‘Songs of Light’ brighten a rainy night at Wickenden Chapel

Dec 4, 2023

MARION — From the moment a singer opens their mouths as a part of a vocal ensemble “they are a part of something bigger than themselves,” said South Coast Children’s Chorus conductor Tianxu Zhou.

And on Sunday, Dec. 3, over 100 singers from first grade to adult took to the stage at Tabor Academy’s Wickenden Chapel to sing “songs of light.”

The South Coast Children’s Chorus was joined by the Tabor Madrigal Singers and the Tabor Mixed Chorus, all led by Zhou. The Tabor Gospel Choir, led by conductor Tyrone Black also joined the party with two selections.

“I really love the fact that we can collaborate with the children's chorus [and] with Tabor Academy and with the gospel choir,” said Zhou. “When we do this, it's like a win-win situation. Everybody gets so much more out of it.”

The theme of the night was “songs of light” and the South Coast Children’s Chorus sang selections like “Shine your Light,” by Janet Gardner; “Where the Light Begins,” by Susan LaBarr; and “Everybody has a Light to Shine,” by John Jacobson and arranged by Mac Huff.

In many selections throughout the night individual children had the chance to stand out and sing a solo.

“This type of experience, we want to make it as deep and as meaningful for each individual as possible,” said Zhou.

But according to Zhou, singing in a chorus is about more than just hitting the right notes.

“Let them learn to enjoy the music,” said Zhou. “The purpose is not just learning the right notes — the purpose is to have fun and enjoy it.”

For Zhou, giving students the opportunity to sing on stage is giving them the chance to “be the light” and build a positive energy and confidence within themselves.

“This type of energy can really help them for the rest of their lives,” said Zhou. “And as teenagers and adults they can tap into it. That energy, that feeling, is so important.”

And for Zhou, that positive experience extends to those who conduct the South Coast Children’s Chorus.

For the first time in his tenure with the chorus, Zhou handed the conductor’s baton to Elliott Talley, who led the South Coast Children’s Chorus Advanced Chorus through “Just One Candle,” by Teresa Jennings.

Zhou described Talley as “a very capable pianist and very capable musician.”

But Talley wasn’t the only person who got a chance to conduct during Sunday’s performance. Amy McMahon, Zhou’s former student at UMass Dartmouth and current music educator, conducted the South Coast Children’s Chorus Preparatory Chorus, which features the group’s youngest singers.

“I am with grades one through three so there’s lots of high energy,” said McMahon. “Learning three songs was a huge feat for us … [but] they weren’t stressed out at all. I think in the moment on stage they are just in performance mode and it all comes together.”

“You can tell [McMahon] has such great rapport with the kids — and kids really love her,” said Zhou. “Not everybody can do that — hold 27 little ones in a room [and] learn music for a whole hour every week … that’s a lot.”

And those 27 little ones joined all the singers on stage for the final song of the night “This Little Light of Mine.”

“Working with the kids reminds you about one thing, it’s very little about you,” said Zhou. “As adults we have the desire to educate them and help them have a deeper understanding of the musical experience — but it has to be their experience not my experience.”