CORONAVIRUS: Concerts, Updates, Schedules and A Moment of Comfort

Founded in 1993 and composed of auditioned treble singers, The Bel Canto Youth Chorus has developed an international reputation for performing diversified choral repertoire at the highest standard of musical excellence and style.

Concert Choir – for children 12-18 years old (or 6th through 12th grade). Girls and boys with unchanged voices.
Preparatory Choir – for children 6-12 years old (or 3rd through 7th grade). Girls and boys with unchanged voices.
Intermediate Choir – for children 10-14 years old (or 5th through 8th grade). Girls and boys with unchanged voices.
Knabenchor – for boys ages 6-14 years old (or 3rd through 7th grade) with unchanged voices.

Notes for the innovative, artistic programs it presents, the choir has been invited to perform for numerous music conferences, including ACDA, NAfME, PMEA, and AGO conferences. Tours have taken the choir to Central Europe, Italy, Ireland, Canada, Oregon, Brooklyn, Disneyworld, Ohio, and twice to Haway for the Pacific Rim Children’s Choral Festival and to the International Children’s Choir Festival in England, both under the direction of Henry Leck. The choir program merged with The Bach Choir of Bethlehem in 2018, providing their choral music education program. The Choir has been under the direction of Dr. Joy Hirokawa since is founding.

Come Sing with Us!

Knabenchor – (German for “Boy Choir”)

Knabenchor is open to boys in grades 3-8 with little or no experience as a chorister. Boys will learn to sing and read music through games, and other activities. Rehearsals take place on the open-air porch at the historic Heckewelder House, 440 Heckewelder Place in downtown Bethlehem.

Rehearsals focus on choral skills, ensemble building, music theory, rhythm training, performance practice, and more, all with the individual attention that is possible with COVID-19 safety guidelines for in-person sessions as well as the virtual environment. Directed by Dr. Joy Hirokawa.

  • Weekly rehearsals on Monday evenings from 6:30 – 7:45 with appropriate breaks. (Please see the detailed schedule.)
  • Scheduled Saturday rehearsals, 2 – 3 per semester.
  • One 20-minute individual session per semester via FaceTime or Google Duo with Dr. Hirokawa to work on vocal technique, musicianship skills, or individual coaching on the music. Additional times may be scheduled by request.

Register to audition OR to attend the next Open Rehearsal on Monday, October 12th from 6:30-7:45 pm here.

The house is named for John Heckewelder, a famed Indian missionary, interpreter, and author of works on Native Indians. The house was erected in 1810, and is also the administrative offices of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem.


Interested in Auditioning, sign up here.

Despite the many musical opportunities The Bel Canto Youth Chorus offers during the year, the auditions remain low-key and enjoyable and no music needs to be prepared in advance. Singers will be asked to introduce themselves, sing a Major scale, and a familiar song like “Happy Birthday,” or “The National Anthem.” This will help our music director better understand their current level of musical ability.

Interested singers have the option to have a live audition via zoom, or in-person with COVID-19 safety guidelines. Auditions for new choristers can be scheduled throughout December for Knabenchor and Preparatory Choirs. Interested singers are encouraged to apply early.

The next auditions for the Concert Choir (students in grades 6-12) will be held in May 2021.

To learn more about the process or to schedule an audition, please contact the Bel Canto Chorus Administrator by phone 610-866-4382, ext. 116 or email:

Tuition Assistance and payment plans available- contact us for more information.
Curious? Virtually attend a rehearsal to see what it’s all about! Please contact the office to arrange a time! Call 610-866-4382 x116 or email

Please complete the background informational survey to request an audition time.

2020-21 Program Offerings

Programs 2020-21


As large group gatherings are currently not safe, ensemble performances will be audio and video recorded, and presented on our scheduled concert dates in a streamed watch party. This will enable families to share their chorister’s musical accomplishments with friends and family virtually.

  • Virtual Winter Concert – December 2020
  • Bach Choir of Bethlehem Virtual Christmas Concert – December 13, 2020 (one piece from CC)
  • Spring Concert – May 1, 2020 (virtual or live TBD)

Concert Choir and invited Knabenchor choristers will participate in the 2021 Bach Festival performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, circumstances allowing, in May 2021. These will be the final performances led by Artistic Director, Greg Funfgeld, who is retiring at the end of this season. A determination will be made in early 2021 on the feasibility of these performances.

Past programs of the current season

Virtual Summer Choral Village (video link coming soon)

Stand Up Summer Camp (video link coming soon)

Professional Development

Vocalise – Newsletter

With this monthly publication, we hope to keep you informed of new choral music opportunities for you and your students, locally, regionally, and nationally that might be of interest to choral music educators of all levels and areas of interest!

To view previous issues, click here.

If you are interested in subscribing to Vocalise, please add your name to our email list here.

Choral Music Teacher Workshop

We are currently planning for the third Choral Director’s workshop in January 2021. It will be open to all levels of classroom, community, and faith-based choral directors.

Previous Workshops

January 25th, 2020 – Dr. Jason Vodicka & Dr. Joy Hirokawa, clinicians.

Sessions covered teaching strategies that were applicable to every age group, and every attendee had something to offer to our discussions. We are grateful that our choral director community has such generous and supportive individuals, and hope that more of you can join us next year!  We hosted Dr. Jason Vodicka from Westminster Choir College for a workshop on incorporating Group Vocal Technique, Gordon Music Learning Theory, and Critical Pedagogy into any choral rehearsal.

Workshop Description
Using the accessible octavo “Shady Grove” arranged by Tom Shelton, Jason presented a wide variety of possible teaching approaches for a choral setting. The workshop included theory backed up by actual application to a learning environment, demonstrated Group Vocal Technique, Gordon Music Learning Theory, Critical Pedagogy, and other approaches. The workshop provided participants with pedagogical ideas to explore to support the work they do with singers. The workshop included the following themes:

  1. Distracted Music-ing: Music as a Multitask:  Creating rehearsals that teach discrete skills within a musically empowering context (60 mins).
  2. The Choral Warm-up: Building Vocal Skill through Group Vocal Technique (60 mins).
  3. Singing in Context: Applying language-based “sight before sound” techniques to build choral literacy (100 minutes).
  4. Please Talk in My Rehearsal: Strategies to engage singers in musical and social dialogue (50 minutes).

5 hours of ACT-48 credit was made available by working with the school districts for each participant who wished to add this workshop for their professional development.

March 28th and 30th, 2019 – Dr. Rollo Dilworth, clinician.

In cooperation with the Allentown School Districts, the Bel Canto Youth Chorus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem is pleased to announce Choral Workshops with renowned conductor and clinician, Dr. Rollo Dilworth.

(March 28th) Rehearsal Techniques: In an open rehearsal with the Bel Canto Concert Choir, Dr. Dilworth provided opportunities for teachers to observe rehearsal techniques appropriate for choirs of any level. Three teachers were invited to home their conducting skills with Dr. Dilworth coaching in a Masterclass following his rehearsal.
(March 30th) Rehearsal Techniques: Focused on Building Community in the Choral Setting and Choral Pedagogy, with a focus on working with diverse students.
Applied Rehearsal Technique: With a group of Elementary/Middle School Singers comprised of Allentown School District students and singers in the BCYC, Dr. Dilworth modelled techniques for introducing and teaching a composition brand new to the students.

Questions? Please email Dr. Joy Hirokawa @ or contact Silagh White, Administrator, at 610-866-4382 x116 or

The Directors and Administration

Dr. Joy Hirokawa, Founder and Artistic Director

Dr. Joy Hirokawa is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Bel Canto Youth Chorus. She earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Education from Boston University, a Masters degree in Choral Conducting from Temple University, and a Bachelors degree with honors in Music Education, also from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She teaches a course annually at Villanova University’s Summer Music Program in working with the child’s voice. Dr. Hirokawa is a frequent guest conductor and clinician, presenting regularly at ACDA, NAfME and PMEA conferences and conducting numerous honors choirs, including the Connecticut All-State Elementary Honors Choir, the Middle School Treble Alabama All-State Chorus, the ACDA-PA All-State Middle School Honors Choir, and the ACDA-PA All-State Women’s Honor. Under her direction, The Bel Canto Youth Chorus has performed locally, nationally and internationally to great acclaim, and has appeared at ACDA, NAfME, and PMEA conferences. International tours have taken the choir to Italy, Ireland, England, and in the summer of 2013, Central Europe. Dr. Hirokawa’s published arrangements include her jazz arrangement of “My Favorite Things” and the Andalusian song “Lamma Badaa Yatathanna,” which have appeared on numerous festival programs. She is the current ACDA Eastern Division Repertoire and Standards Chair for Children and Youth Choirs and the Southeast Region Chair for ACDA-PA. Dr. Hirokawa taught in the public schools for 20 years and is now an adjunct professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.

Connie Behringer, Administrative Manager

Connie Behringer joins the Bel Canto Youth Chorus with more than 20 years of experience program management and higher education.  With a career focused in equity, growth, and team development, Ms. Behringer dedicates her effort toward building an environment of belonging.  Ms. Behringer holds a Master of Arts from DePaul University, Chicago, as well as degrees from Columbia College Chicago and Rutgers University.  She and her husband Bill are enthusiastic board gamers.

Andrea Berntsen, Collaborative Pianist

Andrea Berntsen started playing piano at age of three and became a professional accompanist at the age of thirteen. She earned a BM in Piano Performance from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and an MM in Piano and Organ Performance from the Yale University School of Music, New Haven, Connecticut. Ms. Berntsen has been an active church organist and choir director for close to fifty years and currently resides in Allentown, PA where she continues working as a church musician in addition to freelancing as a keyboard accompanist.

As a new education and community building program of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, the Bel Canto Youth Chorus continues to maintain policy and oversight through volunteer leadership and parent representation.

2018-2019 Governance Committee
Jennifer O’Donnell, Chair and Representative to the Bach Choir of Bethlehem Board of Directors
Elizabeth Campbell, Parent Auxiliary Chair
Catharine Roseberry, Recording Secretary
Jesse Gehman, Bel Canto Alumn & Bach Choir of Bethlehem
Brandon Kendall, Concert Choir Parent
Lindsay Whitman, Preparatory/Intermediate Choir Parent
Silagh White, Administrator of Bel Canto Youth Chorus
Joy Hirokawa, Founder and Artistic Director of Bel Chanto Youth Chorus
Bridget George, Executive Director of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem

Virtual Choral Village 2020

Connect ~ Communicate ~ Create

The Virtual Choral Village (July 27 – 31, 2020), an on-line week of exploring and processing the stories of Spring 2020 through music-making, conversing, drumming, improvising, and creating, geared for youth entering grades 8 – 12 in Fall 2020.

We are seeking youth who are interested in:

  • connecting through artistic expression, exploring new ways to use their voices, ears, and cultural rhythms
  • communicating with other youth from different locales, with different life experiences, telling different stories
  • creating a new artistic expression with these new colleagues

What will each day be like?

All Times Eastern Standard Time/Schedule is subject to change, depending on participants living in different time zones.

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Vocal warmup and improvisation
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Dialogue and Community Building
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM Drumming
2:30 PM – 4:30 PM Creative project work with coaching by the clinicians
4:30 PM – 5:00 PM End of the day Check-In

Friday at 4:00 PM will be a presentation of the creative projects of the week.

What do I need to participate?

  • Computer/laptop/smartphone with stable internet access.
  • We will be using Soundtrap and Flipgrid, two free online programs to share our work and stay in touch.
  • You do NOT need a drum! But you DO need something to bang on – a trashcan, laundry basket, bucket, anything to make some noise!
  • Curiosity, openness, and willingness to learn!

The Virtual Choral Village Team of Expert Clinicians

Our team is experienced in facilitating dialogue, leading vocal improvisation, and instructing drum circles.

Dr. Joy Hirokawa (Vocal Instructor and Director of Choral Village) is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Bel Canto Youth Chorus of The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. She formerly led the music education program at Moravian College for ten years, was an adjunct instructor at Temple University, and was Director of the Lafayette College Concert Choir. Dr. Hirokawa is a published arranger and frequent guest conductor and clinician, presenting regularly at ACDA, NAfME, and PMEA conferences. She is the ACDA National Repertoire and Resources Chair for Children and Youth Choirs. Dr. Hirokawa taught in public schools for 20 years prior to teaching at the collegiate level.

Jennie Gilrain (Theater Artist-Educator) has worked for 20 years as an actor, director, and teacher with Touchstone Theatre, 10 years as an adjunct professor with the Lehigh University Department of Theater and 13 years as a teacher with the Bethlehem Area School District. Most recently, Gilrain directed The Secret, an exploration of the celebrated feminist writer and LGBTQ icon Hilda Doolittle with Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre (2020). Gilrain also curated Finding H.D., A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle with partners Lehigh University, the Bethlehem Area Public Library, Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Community Center, and Mock Turtle Marionette Theater. Gilrain graduated from the Lecoq International School of Theatre and Laboratory for the Study of Movement and is currently in the Education Leadership doctoral program at Lehigh University.

Joseph Tayoun (World Drumming) is an accomplished Middle Eastern percussionist. He started playing by the early age of eight at his family’s renowned Middle East Restaurant in Philadelphia where live, authentic Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Armenian, Greek, and Israeli music and dance was performed nightly for over forty years. Learning from the area’s top Middle Eastern musicians, Joe became adept at the many styles of drumming within these different ethnicities. He performs with various Middle Eastern and World Music ensembles locally, regionally, and internationally, as well as conducting workshops and masterclasses at schools and universities. Joseph has been the recipient of several noteworthy grants from such organizations including the: NEA, PCA, PAEP, and the State Department. He is a Teaching/Artist-In-Residence at Independence Charter School, an award-winning K through 8th school in Center City Philadelphia where he instructs a Hands-On Global Arts class and directs the new World Drumming Corps for the Middle School. Joe is also Artist-In-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archeology where he regularly instructs Middle Eastern Drumming classes in the Egyptian Gallery for adults.

Tuition – $200 US

Scholarships available for Lehigh Valley, PA students

Registration closes July 25, 2020 at midnight

Enrollment is limited to 20 students! Sign up TODAY by clicking the link below to reach our registration page.

While we are based in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, USA, we also welcome youth from other areas to join our exploration of shared and diverse experiences of the last five months.

To Register for the Virtual Choral Village 2020

  1. Click HERE to access and complete our registration form.
  2. After the registration form is submitted, you will be contacted to confirm the registration and to process tuition payment.
  3. For more information about Virtual Choral Village, financial aid, or registration, contact Silagh White at .

    **Limited financial aid is available for families with demonstrated financial need.

    Please note that spaces are limited for this camp. To guarantee a spot in the Choral Village, registration must be completed by June 25, 2020, at midnight.


* Exciting news! * 
An article about Bel Canto’s Choral Village program, written by Joy Hirokawa, Bel Canto’s Founder and Artistic Director,  was published online in Choral Journal and will be the lead article in the print magazine. It will also be included in an upcoming book based on articles that came out of the Relevance Symposium where Joy presented information behind Choral Village.

See Video Gallery for a Peek into the Choral Village

Video Gallery

Chamber Choir performs The National Anthem, August 22, 2019 at Coca-Cola Park.


Why we travel

  • Builds cohesiveness in the choir
  • With more cohesiveness, they perform better!
  • When they perform better, they reach new heights of musicianship & musicality
  • Educational opportunities
  • Musical opportunities
  • Broaden horizons
  • Opportunities for individual personal growth

Appalachian Festival of Young Voices
Charleston, West Virginia
June 2021
Festival Conductor: Rollo Dilworth

Festival Activities:

  • 4 night stay in Charleston’s luxurious Embassy Suites Hotel

  • Performance with a traditional string band and orchestra

  • Individual choir performances each night in the Embassy Ballroom

  • Festival choir performance at Charleston’s Civic Center Little Theater

  • Participation in Charleston’s city-wide FestivALL when the city becomes a work of art!

  • Outstanding opportunity to work with Dr. Rollo Dilworth

  • Q&A Session with Dr. Dilworth, singer/songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler and singer/songwriter Ron Sowell

  • Square dancing with a live band and storytelling with a West Virginia artist

  • Farewell party with a live DJ on the River Queen riverboat.

Here is another perspective of the impact of travel. Bel Canto alumni Kennedy Spencer and Sara Mack share what they gained from the experience: