Schedule an Audition TODAY!
Founded in 1993 and comprised 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.
Auditions for all choirs (ages 8-17)
We are currently seeking singers who thrive on taking a “deep dive” into the music they are singing, including historical context, relevance to contemporary issues, and of course, solid musical and vocal training. Some highlights:
- The 2020-21 Stand Up program has provided a foundation for our participation next fall in a special conference focused specifically on African American Choral Music, Bent But Not Broken, in Wilmington, DE.
- Our 2021-22 season will culminate in a performance of Bach’s Matthew Passion with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem in Greg Funfgeld’s final performances as the Artistic Director.
- Our summer travel in June 2022 will extend the focus from the Stand Up program. We are joining with youth choirs from Washington DC and Wilmington DE in a tour that traces Harriet Tubman’s journey from Maryland to her home in Auburn, NY.
These wide-ranging musical experiences create intelligent and expressive singing musicians.
Our holistic approach to choral instruction is ideal for any child who loves to sing and is seeking musical enrichment. Our in-person rehearsals observe the most current, researched-based recommendations for COVID-19 safety protocols.
Auditions are low-key, require no preparation, and are completed on Zoom or in person. To learn more or to schedule an audition, please contact us at 610-866-4342, ext. 116, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For Tuition and Fees information, please click here.
Scroll down for more details about the audition process. If you are ready to register for an audition time, please click here.
Film Premiere - June 22, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.
The Bel Canto Youth Chorus has spent the last year, rehearsing, studying, recording and editing its first ever full-length concert video:
Combining traditional African American spirituals and chorales of J.S.Bach with the spoken word of poetry, the Youth Chorus will present this program recorded in Allentown, Bethlehem, Freemansburg, New Hope, and Quakertown free to all who register online to view it.
This film tells a story of Survival. Endurance. Strength. Resilience. Dignity. Bravery. Hope…qualities that inspire us and that we all need in this confusing world. We have much to learn as we give voice to this story.
Guest artists include Camille Armstrong, Dashon Burton, Grace Spruiel, Craig Thatcher, and Dierdre Van Walters.
FREE registration gives you access to the digital program.
Through music, storytelling, and dialogue, this film:
- develops an understanding of the story of enslaved people escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century
- encourages a greater self-awareness regarding issues of race and equity, leading to a greater understanding of our communities and our world
- features repertoire written or arranged almost exclusively by African-American composers.
In a year that has challenged so many youth education programs, the film offers people a way to hear the power of these young voices while seeing our local landscape in a new way.
Before the film’s premiere, we will perform at the inaugural
On Saturday, June 19th
We are honored to be invited to sing in front of a live audience. We are scheduled to sing at 12:00pm in the Red Cinema of the Frank Banko Alehouse inside the Steelstacks building located at 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem, PA
Choral Village provides an opportunity for young people throughout the Lehigh Valley to dive into world music reflecting the many cultures represented right here in our community. Middle schoolers spend a full week exploring expressive choral performance, participate in drum circles, and engage in theater exercises, all in an atmosphere of community building and teamwork. The name, Choral Village, is derived from the African proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise our children. It takes a whole village to raise one child.”
The 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.
Named “A Performing Arts Renaissance Woman”, Camille is known for her work worldwide as a singer, composer, arranger, lyricist, dancer, choreographer, rhythm & percussionist, actress, director, and teaching artist. Some of her many works include, but are in no way limited to composing and choreographing with and for Harry Connick Jr.’s show Elf; Hip-Hop and Body Percussion (making music with our bodies) dance instruction and choreography at DeSales University, Tap Ties, and Pennsylvania Youth Theater as a Movement Instructor in Drama and Choreographer for main stage musical theater productions. She also teaches acting, singing, rhythm, dancing, artistic development, double-dutch jump rope, and Body Percussion workshops for all ages at music festivals in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, and New York.
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.
An article about Bel Canto’s Choral Village program, written by Dr. Joy Hirokawa was published in Choral Journal. It is also included in the book, Relevance in the Choral Arts; A Pathway to Connections.
This summer marks our fifth year of Choral Village! Through choral singing, drumming, theater games, and cultural exploration, Choral Village provides a safe and creative environment for middle school aged youth to learn about our local role in the Underground Railroad through contemporary and traditional African American music. Participants will also explore contemporary implications of this story in their own lives, examining aspects of social inequity and bias. We are excited to share this truly compelling story and our region’s significant role in assisting the enslaved to freedom. The music from this time not only expresses the humanity of the enslaved, but also laid the groundwork for virtually all our contemporary American popular music.
Connect ~ Communicate ~ Create
The Virtual Choral Village (July 27 – 31, 2020)
In response to the pandemic, the Choral Village program adjusted to an on-line week of exploring and processing the stories of Spring 2020 through music-making, conversing, drumming, improvising, and creating. To support more varied points of view, the grade levels were expanded to include youth entering grades 8 – 12 in Fall 2020. Participants from outside the Lehigh Valley were also welcome.
- 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
The Daily Schedule:
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 was a presentation of the creative projects of the week.
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. Auditions for new choristers can be scheduled any time. Placement will be determined by the timing of the audition. We encourage singers to audition as soon as possible.
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: email@example.com
Please complete the background informational survey to request an audition time.
Get to Know Bel Canto
We believe choral singing builds better humans.
The process of learning to work together as a team to create inspired, musical performances builds personal empathy and understanding. We consider each individual chorister as a valued, contributing member. Our instructional approach provides social and historical context for every piece we study. Musicianship and vocal technique are seamlessly integrated into instruction, and drawn directly from the music we are learning. Our repertoire ranges from Bach to contemporary composers and culturally based music, with a special emphasis on underrepresented composers and music.
These wide-ranging musical experiences connect our singers, creating a strong sense of community, understanding the power they have when they lift their voices.
Take a look at how we have shifted to keep singing through the pandemic:
Each season’s repertoire highlights a specific area of focus that draws connections between the individual pieces musically, topically, geographically, historically, or in some other way. Themes are often reflective of the location for the summer travel plans. For example, on our 2019 trip to England, we visited and performed at Coventry Cathedral, having recently performed Britten’s War Requiem, which was written for the consecration of the Cathedral.
The 2020-21 theme focuses on our local connection to the Underground Railroad.
Using traditional spirituals as well as music by contemporary African American composers and artists, our spring curriculum focuses on music that tells the story of the Underground Railroad. Through music, storytelling, and dialogue, we hope to encourage greater self-awareness regarding issues of race and a greater understanding of our communities and our world. As the UGRR passed through our geographic area, we will be connecting to our local role in the UGRR, visiting area historic sites, and walking a short stretch of the path the UGRR generally traversed (as Covid precautions allow). All materials and teaching strategies will be age-appropriate.
This is a story of Survival. Endurance. Strength. Resilience. Dignity. Bravery. Hope…qualities that inspire us and that we all need in this confusing world. We have much to learn as we give voice to this story.
~Rhiannon Giddens, performing artist and Artistic Director of Silkroad
The repertoire tells the story of escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad, primarily through settings of spirituals, but also by contemporary artists. It is divided into four sections:
- Enslavement and survival
- A way out focusing on resilience and hope
- The journey that requires bravery and strength
- The promised land where people have their dignity restored
Each section begins with a Bach Chorale and a reading, followed by several spirituals or contemporary compositions. The entire program is bookended with inspirational songs to lift the spirit. The readings will be contemporary – connecting the focus of the particular section to current events relative to racial inequity and social justice. These are the songs we are studying.
We are working on engaging guest artists who will provide authentic voices in the learning of this music. We will also be partnering with area schools in a virtual environment to invite dialogue and share musical experiences throughout the spring. We hope to document our journey and the curricular framework with an eye to make it available to other music educators. The end goal is a June 2021 video (live performance if Covid conditions allow) that includes musical performances by the Bel Canto choristers, area middle schools, and combined forces, guest artists, images, stories, and reflections.
As we learn this repertoire and come to understand the context of the music, your chorister may have questions, some of which may be uncomfortable. To support family discussion in the manner of your preference and for your reference, we have created a database of materials freely available online that are specifically geared towards having conversations with your children about race. Our intent is to provide these opportunities to you to utilize as you feel is appropriate. While our instruction will focus on how the music gives voice to the story, we hope that you explore the resources and find something there that resonates with you to initiate a conversation with your child. We encourage you to take advantage of the moment! Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
To hear more of Dr. Hirokawa’s discussion of the curriculum, please click here to listen to her January 18, 2021 interview on “Lehigh Valley Arts Salon,” WDIY 88.1 FM.
Young voices require knowledgeable instruction, with care taken to not damage the vocal instrument. Each rehearsal begins with group vocal instruction that prepares the singers for the music to be rehearsed that day. We place an emphasis on giving each singer the tools they need to be independent singers, laying a foundation for a lifetime of healthy singing.
The best learning occurs when new concepts are contextualized and students independently construct their own understanding. Musicianship skills are incorporated into every rehearsal, drawn directly from the music being studied. Applying solfege, score analysis, movement, and aural skill exercises regularly in instruction, choristers acquire reading musical notation organically. This results in our singers growing into more complete musicians.
We believe that repertoire can be a window to understand a different time, place, or people. To that end, we seek out diverse music that comes from not only the Western Art Music canon but also music representing other cultural expressions and music of underrepresented composers and traditions. Learning a diverse repertoire and performing it in the original language encourages understanding of a cultural group, and assigns value and validation to the tradition the music represents. This understanding impacts how our singers interact with each other and the greater world.
It is hard to imagine another activity that requires the same teamwork, focus, and unity of purpose as choral singing. When children and youth sing in a choir, they learn that:
- they can be a valued part of a much larger whole;
- when they join in community with others, their voices are more powerful;
- supporting others lifts the entire community.
- In choir, no one sits on the bench. Each voice has a unique and valuable contribution to make.
We actively cultivate this culture in our rehearsals and in all of our activities.
We are committed to equitable opportunities for all young singers who want to share their voice and support participation by youth from all backgrounds. Repertoire selection often reflects the heritage of our singers, providing additional context for learning about each other and personal growth.
Concert Choir is open to youth in grades 6 – 12 who sing in the Soprano/Alto range. Singers in this ensemble are highly motivated and are seeking to be musically challenged with a group of other like-minded young singers from across the region. While some singers come to the ensemble with a fair amount of vocal or musical experience, this is not a prerequisite, as musicianship and vocal technique are integrated into instruction during every rehearsal. Repertoire ranges from unison to multiple parts and varies widely, including multiple languages, styles, and genres. Instruction emphasizes historical and social context and the significance of the music and composer – a very holistic approach to choral music education.
Weekly rehearsals take place outdoors and in person on Thursday evenings from 6:45 – 8:30, observing appropriate COVID-19 protocols, or virtually when there is inclement weather.
Knabenchor for boys ages 6 – 14 (or 3rd through 7th grade)
The Preparatory Chorus is open to singers in grades 3 – 7 with unchanged voices. Lively instruction includes movement, vocal exploration, and musicianship, all taught through the lens of the music they are learning. Rehearsals are weekly for 75 minutes. No experience necessary. Rehearsals offer individual attention utilizing COVID-19 safety guidelines for in-person sessions, as well as in the virtual environment.
Whether it is a solo concert tour, participation in a festival, or a local run-out program, touring as a choir provides unique opportunities for our singers. Choristers grow in musicality, self-confidence, and commitment to each other. They learn about the locations they are visiting, often performing music associated with the location. Contextualizing the music in this way gives the choristers deeper insight into the importance and relevance of the music. As a result, the ensemble as a whole is elevated through these shared experiences and performs with a new level of understanding.
Solo Concert Tours
2013 Central Europe
2010 Canada (Montreal and Quebec)
National and international Music Festival Participation with Bel Canto Youth Chorus
Canterbury International Children’s Choral Festival, England
Niagara Children’s Choral Festival, Niagara, Canada
Pacific International Children’s Choral Festival, Eugene, Oregon
Queen City Choral Festival, Cincinnati, Ohio
World Choir Games, Cincinnati, Ohio
Pacific Rim International Choir Festival, Honolulu, Hawaii
Sing a Mile High Children’s Choral Festival, Denver, Colorado
Coastal Sound Choral Festival, Vancouver, British Columbia
Founded in 1993, The Bel Canto Youth Chorus is comprised of auditioned treble singers from the Greater Lehigh Valley region in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The choir has developed an international reputation for performing diversified choral repertoire at the highest standard of musical excellence and style. Noted for the innovative, artistic programs it presents, the choir has been invited to perform for numerous music conferences, including the Eastern Division ACDA, Eastern Division MENC, PMEA, AGO, and Pennsylvania ACDA conferences.
In 2018, the choir merged with The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Bel Canto provides a youth choral music education program for The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and performs regularly on Bach Choir programs. Bel Canto collaborates with other artists as well, including the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, Allentown Band, Bucks County Choral Society, Cordus Mundi Men’s Chorus, and Lehigh University Choral Union.
The choir has been honored for its excellence as a winner of The American Prize in the Children’s Chorus category. Tours have taken the choir to Central Europe, Italy, Ireland, Canada, England, Colorado, Oregon, Brooklyn, Disneyworld, Ohio, and Hawaii. The choir adapted instruction in 2020 to accommodate appropriate Covid-19 protocols, finding innovative ways to rehearse both in person and virtually. The choir has been under the direction of Founder Dr. Joy Hirokawa from its inception.
Click here to view selections from our 2020 Virtual Winter Concert produced by Crowded Kitchen Players for Live from IceHouse Tonight series on YouTube!
For a peek into our last live performance, please link to selections from our 2019 Winter Concert at St. John’s Windish Evangelical Lutheran in south Bethlehem, PA.
The Bel Canto Family
A shared love of singing and each other.
Chamber Choir performs The National Anthem, August 22, 2019 at Coca-Cola Park.
We’ll return to the park on August 25th, 2021 – PLAY BALL!
Professional Development for Choral Directors
Professional Development Resources for Choral Music Educators
(elementary, secondary, college, and faith-based organizations)
If you are interested in receiving information about the next professional development workshop, please add your name to our email list here.
You know that feeling right after a conference day when you walk out with a group of friends and just want to talk about what you learned/heard?
Following the January Jumpstart, grab some lunch, let your brain process, and then join us for a follow-up Zoom session from 1:30 – 2:30 with friends to share ideas you found particularly intriguing, brainstorm ways of adapting and applying ideas you heard about in the sessions, and, well, just check up with each other! Bring your lunch and beverage (adult is ok!) and enjoy the amazing community of music educators we are part of. Sign up HERE!
We are working with area school districts to obtain Act 48 credit for your time! 5.5 hours for the whole day!
Saturday, January 25th, 2020
Our 2020 Recharge! for Choral Music Educators was held on Saturday, January 25, 2020 at Christ Lutheran Church in Allentown. Attendees included a WIDE variety of choral conductors – from church musicians dealing with aging voices with out of control wobbles to elementary general music teachers working with our youngest singers. Sessions covered teaching strategies that were applicable to every age group, and every attendee had something to offer to our discussions.
Using the accessible octavo “Shady Grove” arranged by Tom Shelton, Dr. Jason Vodika and Dr. Joy Hirokawa 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.
- Distracted Music-ing: Music as a Multitask: Creating rehearsals that teach discrete skills within a musically empowering context.
- The Choral Warm-up: Building Vocal Skill through Group Vocal Technique.
- Singing in Context: Applying language-based “sight before sound” techniques to build choral literacy.
- Please Talk in My Rehearsal: Strategies to engage singers in musical and social dialogue.
8:30 – 9:00 Coffee, Conversations, Connections!
9:00 – 12:00 Workshop
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch
1:00 – 3:00 Workshop
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.
Conductor and educator Jason Vodicka is an Assistant Professor of Music Education at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in music education, mentors student teachers, and teaches summer courses in conducting pedagogy for in-service musicians. Prior to his appointment at Westminster, Dr. Vodicka was Coordinator of Music Education at Susquehanna University where he taught courses in music education, conducted the University Chorale, and founded the Susquehanna University High School Choral Institute. During this time he was also Music Director of the Harrisburg Choral Society and Orchestra, a community ensemble founded in 1895. For nine years, Dr. Vodicka was a vocal music instructor at Pennsbury High School in Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania. A versatile musician and educator, Dr. Vodicka has worked as a church musician for more than twenty years.
Dr. Vodicka holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in music education from Westminster Choir College and a doctorate in conducting from the University of Georgia. He is a 2017 inductee into the Westminster Music Education Hall of Fame. Dr. Vodicka is in frequent demand as a clinician and guest conductor. He is the author of several publications including chapters in the Oxford Handbook of Choral Pedagogy and James Jordan’s Inside the Choral Rehearsal: Harmonic Rehearsal Teaching and Learning Based on the Music Learning Theory of Edwin E. Gordon. He is the chief author of the Inside the Choral Rehearsal teaching guides series available from GIA Publications.
Bel Canto was honored to receive a grant from ACDA’s Fund for Tomorrow to initiate an annual choral music educator professional development event which we named, Recharge! Our inaugural program featured Dr. Rollo Dilworth (Vice Dean and Professor at Temple University) as a clinician for three days in the Lehigh Valley on March 28, 29, & 30, 2019.
Planning for his residency began in June 2018 when Artistic Director Dr. Joy Hirokawa met with music educators in the Allentown School District (ASD). Using a logic model approach, we analyzed their needs and distilled what they felt they most would like in their time with Dr. Dilworth. In consultation with Dr. Dilworth, we designed a residency tailored specifically to the requests of the ASD music educators. The final day of the residency was open to all teachers in the area. A complete schedule follows:
Thursday, March 28, 2019
12:30 – 3:30 PM Working with Urban Populations Professional Development
This workshop was presented to the ASD Elementary Music Educators. Dr. Dilworth provided inspirational feedback and support to the teachers and modeled numerous teaching strategies appropriate for Urban Populations.
6:45 – 8:45 PM Open Rehearsal and Masterclass
During this session, Dr. Dilworth led a Conducting Masterclass with three area teachers as they led the Concert Choir of The Bel Canto Youth Chorus in rehearsal. He then modeled instruction by coaching the choir on one of his own pieces, “No Ways Tired.” This Masterclass was open to all area teachers to observe.
Friday, March 29, 2019
12:00 – 8:00 PM Young Voices of Allentown
The Young Voices of Allentown program brings together selected singers from each of the four middle schools in Allentown to form an honor choir to present a short program of choral music. This year, one of the high school choirs also joined the program. In the afternoon, Dr. Dilworth coached the combined group on one of his songs and taught them a gospel song modeling teaching in the oral tradition for the teachers. Additional time with the teachers addressed working with students in the urban environment. Dr. Dilworth conducted the final selections of the evening program, engaging the audience to sing with the students.
Saturday, March 30, 2019
9:00 AM– 3:00 PM Choral Pedagogy Professional Development
This session was open to all teachers in the region and focused on rehearsal strategies, warm-up examples, and teaching philosophy. In the afternoon, a group of singers from The Bel Canto Youth Chorus and students from the ASD combined to form a lab chorus for Dr. Dilworth to model teaching a song from scratch, with sidebars to the teachers to explain the teaching approaches he was using.
Resources for Area Choral Music Directors
In-service Programs for Your School or Faith-based choir
Looking for a clinician for an in-service program focused on your needs as choral music educators? Dr. Hirokawa has presented workshops, clinics, and conference sessions extensively across the country.
Looking for research to support your program? Whether it’s the latest on performing in the time of Covid-19 or the percentage of choral singers who engage more in civic activities, we can help you find the information you need.
Please get in touch with us!
Bel Canto has close to 800 titles in our library housed in Easton, PA primarily treble music of a wide variety of styles, genres, and difficulty levels. We typically hold these Open Houses several times during the year when Bel Canto conductors are present to be resources. Any area teacher can stop in to peruse scores, get recommendations for music, and read through pieces in which they are interested. Interested in a Professional Development day for your district? Please contact us to arrange a time!
This monthly newsletter to area choral music educators includes:
- Teaching tips
- Opportunities for choral directors and their students
- News you need to know
- Advocacy resources
- Announcements of upcoming events
Click here to join our email list! (add the link)
The Directors and Administration
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.
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.
Silagh White has more than 25 years of experience in arts management, most recently at Lehigh University-first as Director of ArtsLehigh (2005-2011) and then as Director of Arts Engagement & Community Cultural Affairs (2011-2016). Her career is also anchored in music and she has a doctorate in Bassoon Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Lehigh University. Prior to moving to the Lehigh Valley, she was director of an arts engagement program called “The Muse Machine” for the Performing Arts Council of Toledo, Ohio. She is president of the Eastern PA Arts Alliance, and a member of the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission. She produces features for Lehigh Valley Arts Salon on the local public radio, WDIY, and has a blog/podcast called “The Audience Guide.”
Gail Grossman, Bel Canto’s vocal technician, has been a private voice teacher in the Lehigh Valley for more than thirty years, specializing in classical voice, opera, and musical theatre. Ms. Grossman has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in voice from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and spent a year in Bologna, Italy, studying opera.
She sang professionally and taught voice in New York City for many years, and continued advanced studies in speech pathology at NYU, focusing on voice disorders experienced by the professional voice user. Ms. Grossman has worked with ear, nose, and throat specialists in New York and Pennsylvania, providing voice therapy to singers with vocal nodules and other vocal issues, including paralyzed vocal cords, global apraxia, and traumatic brain injury. Ms. Grossman maintains a private voice studio in the Allentown area. Her students have gone on to major universities and conservatories, and many have gone on to major careers in opera, musical theater, film, and contemporary music.
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
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—The Morning Call, May 2018
"From anguish to elation, and just about everything in between, pretty much describes the vast emotional landscape covered in Friday evening’s concert at Packer Memorial Church presented by the Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Splendid musicianship, rousing choruses, and the sublime voices of the soloists turned grief into joy and sorrow into triumph."
—The Morning Call, March 2018
"The oft-quoted phrase 'a drumroll, please' aptly applies to the opening of Rutter’s exultant Gloria, which provided a dramatic finale to the program. What a thrill to hear those punchy, syncopated brass lines accompanying some really polished and vibrant singing. The “Domine Deus” section sported some lovely soprano voices in addition to many demanding, multi-part choruses –— some with up to eight parts. There was a miraculous blend of tone and balance throughout."
—The Huffington Post, 2017
"The performance was one of integrity, movement, passion and weight. The effortless virtuosity and stylistic homogeneity of the combined forces in the chapel's stone sanctity, allowed Bach's music to sing out with infectious, exhilarating enthusiasm."
—New York Arts, 2015
"The audience was thrilled by this outstanding performance of a Bach Cantata by seasoned experts immersed in the composer and informed by Greg Funfgeld's wisdom and enthusiasm...The Bachs [J.S.B and C.P.E] could not have been better served, not to mention two English Renaissances, as well as our own time. It went beyond mere intelligent programming and committed performance, enriched by a deep sense of the mutual nourishment of music and faith."
—The Wall Street Journal, May 2015
"Nestled in the Pennsylvania countryside, on and around the bucolic campus of Lehigh University, the Bethlehem Bach Festival, under the artistic direction of conductor Greg Funfgeld, is in its 108th season and going strong. If it has flaws, they are like those that distinguish a fine emerald from the perfect clarity of a fake...their choral sonority is so rich you can feel it in your bones."
—The Whole-Note - Toronto, June 2015
"Two days later I am Newark bound again, with a head full of the history of a town I previously had no awareness of, and with a heart full of the music of Bach, presented in a context that felt less like a festival than a glorious friendship between a great composer and the orchestra, conductor and choir at the heart of an extraordinary town."
—The Washington Post, March 2013
"The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, founded in the 19th century, has gained international recognition through its annual Bach Festival, tours and recordings. The more than 100 vocalists displayed clean tone, excellent pitch and blend, and kept good tempo even in the most stressful numbers…outstanding, energetic and crisp. The orchestra was a collection of top freelancers from around the Eastern Seaboard including several from Washington… baritone Dashon Burton, was the standout. He has a clarion instrument that projects well throughout his range…a splendid dramatic performance. Soprano Rosa Lamoreaux was also excellent, expertly modulating her silvery tone for the various roles she took…This was the choir’s big night, though, and it gave great pleasure…”
—Gramophone, November 2012
“A handsome account of Bach’s St. John Passion on this new release confirms that the Bach Choir of Bethlehem doesn’t rest on anything resembling laurels. Greg Funfgeld has trained his singers to articulate words crisply, dance lightly when the music must move and blend elegantly. Funfgeld brings a sure sense of phrasing, texture and pacing to the narrative, and the Bach Festival Orchestra—mostly modern instruments, with viola da gamba, violas d’amore and portative organ supplying period flavors—are cohesive and nimble. Charles Daniels stands out as a poetic and powerful Evangelist, William Sharp as a warmly inflected Jesus and Julia Doyle as a shining champion of the soprano arias.”
—New York Times, September 2011
“The Bach Choir of Bethlehem sang a Brahms motet (“Lass Dich Nur Nichts”) with all the polish and fervor it brought to cantatas by its namesake.”
—The Morning Call, October 2011
“..inspired program of hope, optimism and comfort …disarmingly powerful…overflows with jubilation”
—BBC Music Magazine, May 2010
“America’s venerable Bach Choir of Bethlehem makes its Analekta debut on a disc brimming-over with festive D major trumpets-and-drums brilliance…Julia Doyle and Daniel Taylor heading up a distinguished solo line-up.”
—The Morning Call, May 2010
“Conductor Greg Funfgeld coaxed a lovely rich chamber orchestra sound from the Bach Festival Orchestra strings...The hauntingly beautiful voices of Taylor and Zsigovics—she in her festival debut—melted together like two precious metals, hers of bell-like clarity, his a more complex alchemy, with a sheen like liquid mercury.”
—Minnesota Public Radio Review, December 2009
“As I listen to The Bach Choir of Bethlehem with Greg Funfgeld conducting…I find it hard to believe this is an all-volunteer choir but it’s true…a well polished vocal ensemble, and a true level of musicianship and understanding of the choral music of Bach.”
—Wall Street Journal May, 2007
“…an American musical treasure… they sing with a fervor and a level of musicianship that carries one away—from bass to soprano, the supple strength and solidly integrated tone of this amateur choir reflects the most admirable qualities of the European-American tradition of choral song.”
—New York Times, May 2007
“By all accounts the chorus remains as vital an institution as ever…The B-Minor Mass performance was rousing, committed and touching…Bach’s ‘St. Matthew Passion’ too was ardently and lovingly performed…”
—The American Organist, January, 2004
“This is Bach at its finest. The conductor, orchestra, soloists, and chorus are eminently capable of the nuances of the rich harmonic texts …spirited and vivacious…It is not likely to get any better than this on this side of the Atlantic.”
—The Times, London, July 2003
“America’s venerable Bach Choir of Bethlehem sang Bach and Mendelssohn with good-natured and ruddy-cheeked elation. And their centerpiece was a BBC/Bach Choir co-commission, the world premiere of Libby Larsen’s I It Am, a jubilant cantata based on the writings of Julian of Norwich…this highly coloured and disarmingly unsophisticated work came from, and went straight to, the heart.”
—The Scotsman, Edinburgh, July 2003
“The Bach Choir of Bethlehem…had their audience enthralled…The choir knows and loves this work – and it shows…transatlantic magic.”
—Early Music News, California, October/November 2002
“Nearly one hundred strong, the Bach Choir of Bethlehem tempers its power and energy with the intimacy of a much smaller group. It also blends seamlessly with the excellent modern-instrument Festival orchestra which Greg Funfgeld conducts with an obvious knowledge of, and sensitivity to, modern performance practice.”
—American Record Guide, November/December 2002
“…the Choir and Festival Orchestra, under their director, Greg Funfgeld, perform these three cantatas beautifully and convincingly. The work of the soloists is excellent, too…Excitement, dedication, power—all things that we hear more and more seldom in Bach cantatas—lend distinction to this beautiful and well-produced recording.”
—Musical America, May 2001
“Sheer jubilance…exceptional elegance and grace…radiant performance…Having heard the Bethlehem Bach Choir pour its heart into the master’s vocal music, one will never listen to it in quite the same way again.”
—American Record Guide, November/December 2000
“The Bethlehem Bach Festival is one of the most venerable musical institutions in the USA, with an unmatched tradition of introducing Bach’s music to our shores. Greg Funfgeld…has revitalized this Pennsylvania institution, and Dorian is doing well to document its vibrancy in a recording series… genuine honesty and intelligence informs this performance…Funfgeld has forged a fine body of singers and players…tightly disciplined ensemble …rousing spirit and sacred joy aplenty. This recording will not disappoint.”
—Philadelphia Inquirer, December 2000
“…intoxicating but precise choral sound that reminds you why choruses grew this large in the first place. The elemental power is startling…the Bethlehem approach under Greg Funfgeld isn’t anachronistic, but meets the historically enlightened approach halfway…We know from Bach’s often irritable correspondence that he campaigned for more singers. The Bach Choir of Bethlehem gives him all he could have wanted. Maybe this is “in-his-dreams” Bach.”
—The Washington Post, May 1999
“…a performance that confirmed my belief that this is one of the finest large amateur choruses in the United States.”