Posts filed under: KSBlog

KSBlog

The main KSB Blog!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Emily Harmar, Development Director
development@cychoirs.org
W: 215-403-7030
C: 215-740-1460

Asher’s Legacy – CY Remembers Jack
First Annual Scholarship Concert
Saturday, March 3, 2018 l 7:30 pm
First Presbyterian Church in Germantown
35 W. Chelten Avenue, Phila, PA   19144

Germantown, Philadelphia, February 6, 2018 — For many years, the Asher’s Chocolates plant in Germantown produced a variety of chocolate treats that were the delight of children everywhere. John L. “Jack” Asher, Jr., the former co-chairman of Asher’s Chocolates and one of the founder’s grandsons, helped lead the company into a new era of profitability. He passed away on Aug. 30, 2017. On Saturday, March 3, another Germantown-based institution that benefited greatly from Jack Asher’s support and leadership – Commonwealth Youthchoirs – will honor his memory and his many contributions to the community with a concert featuring some of the region’s finest young singers.

Asher’s Legacy – CY Remembers Jack will be held at 7:30 pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown and will be performed by the singers from Keystone State Boychoir (KSB) and Pennsylvania Girlchoir (PG). Mr. Asher was founding Board Chair of KSB in 2001. Over the next 17 years, with Jack’s continuing support, KSB would grow into what is today the Commonwealth Youthchoirs (CY) organization. What began in 2001 as a choir of 37 boys has grown into the largest youth choral organization in the region, and one of the finest in the world. CY now serves over 600 young people in six different programs, including KSB, PG, New Jersey Boychoir, Garden State Girlchoir, Good Mornin’ Music!, and Find Your Instrument!. FYI! is a choral education program that partners with underserved schools that have no formal music offerings. Thanks in no small part to the vision of Jack Asher, hundreds of children in his beloved Germantown have the joy of singing in their lives.

The event was purposely chosen to take place on Jack’s birthday. Jack’s wife Carol and their children Dave, John and Sue, and their families are expected to be in attendance. “My Dad would be delighted that we are spending his birthday at a performance by CY’s singers. He believed strongly that children gained unique benefits and opportunities from the experience of singing in the choirs,” says Dave Asher.  

At the concert, CY’s scholarship fund will be renamed The Jack Asher Scholarship Fund. All proceeds will benefit the fund so that more children in Germantown and beyond can be transformed through the power of making music together. The choir opens many doors of opportunity – a founding member of Keystone State Boychoir, Vince Cannady, auditioned for the choir while a boy at Project Home – through his choir experience he toured the world and is now one of the final four contestants on Fox 29’s “The Four.”

Jack was beloved by CY singers who each received a box of chocolates at the holidays directly from “Mr. Asher,” says Commonwealth Youthchoirs’ Founder and Artistic Director, Steven Fisher. “Over the years, Jack sent nearly 5,000 boxes of chocolates to our kids,” Fisher adds. “It’s not as if Jack had a child or grandchild who benefited directly from one of our programs. But from the beginning he was incredibly generous with his time, resources and wisdom about how to grow something,” Fisher observes. “The reason was, simply, that Jack understood the power of music in the life of a young person, especially those who are underserved.”

Jack loved both choral and organ music, and was especially fond of repertoire that involves both. “In 17 years, I don’t think that we missed a major CY performance,” says Carol Asher, Jack’s wife.  

At the concert on March 3, young singers from CY will be joined by the visiting Bratislava Boys Choir and special guest organist Alessandro Pittorino to present Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb. The young Pittorino was the first Australian organ student to attend The Juilliard School, from which he recently graduated with a Master of Music in Performance. “What a fitting way to celebrate both Jack’s life and the 75th anniversary of the world premiere of this great work for organ and choir,” adds Fisher. “Pittorinio’s involvement, as an up and coming ‘rock star’ of the organ world, would have greatly pleased Jack. He was all about lifting up young people with potential. Those who knew Jack know how much he enjoyed hearing pieces that pulled out all of the 340 stops of the McLean Memorial Pipe Organ at First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, which will certainly be the case when Pittorino plays!”

“Besides being a great supporter of CY, Jack was a great mentor and friend to me personally, and I miss him dearly. It is my profound honor to launch this annual event in his memory,” says Fisher. “There was only one Jack Asher. He will live on through the hearts and voices of thousands of children who knew song because of him, and through thousands more in the years to come.”

Tickets are $40, $60 and $80 and are now on sale here. For more information or to help sponsor the event, go to www.cychoirs/asherslegacy.org.

Download full-size photo of Jack Asher

Download Commonwealth Youthchoirs’ program logos (full-size .jpg file)

Download Alessandro Pittorino Bio

Download Alessandro Pittorino full-size headshot for print

Download Alessandro Pittorino at organ full-size for print

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2017 Holiday Concert on the Square

Holiday Concert on the Square

Sunday, December 17, 2017 | 5:00 pm

Featuring Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and 
Jason Robert Brown’s Chanukah Suite

Church of the Holy Trinity
Rittenhouse Square, 19th and Walnut Streets | Philadelphia

Tickets on sale now through the Online Box Office

 

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KSB Holiday Concert

Tickets on sale now! Join Keystone State Boychoir for this year’s Holiday Concerts!  Two performances available:

Sunday, December 10, 2017 | 3:00 pm Concert | purchase tickets for the 3:00 pm performance

6:00 pm Concert – SOLD OUT!

Sunday, December 10, 2017 | 6:00 pm Candlelight Concertpurchase tickets for the 6:00 pm performance

purchase tickets online until 11:00 am Sunday, then at the door…

Both concerts at First Presbyterian Church in Germantown | 35 West Chelten Avenue | Philadelphia, PA 19144

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From the latest CY Sampler:

All three major TV stations were on hand to help welcome Keystone State Boychoir and special guest Inge Auerbacher back from the 2017 tour to Germany and the Czech Republic. Take a look at this coverage by CBS3 Eyewitness News.

Here is NBC10’s coverage:

Andrew P., a newly graduated KSB member, reflects,”My recent KSB concert tour to Germany and the Czech Republic was a powerful experience. Traveling with Inge and hearing her story firsthand gave me a more meaningful understanding of the Holocaust than anything I’ve learned in school, and I deeply appreciated her message of hope for the future.”

There’s a photo album on the KSB Facebook Page – take a look!

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Keystone State Boychoir in Prague

Keystone State Boychoir celebrated Independence Day a bit early by singing the national anthem at the residence of the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic on June 28 as part of an event organized by Chargé d’Affaires Kelly Adams-Smith. Singers then enjoyed an all-American meal (Starbucks!, KFC! Burger King!) and mingling with a diverse group of guests including diplomats and generals.

On this Independence Day, we are proud of these 59 young men for representing our city, state and nation, and for bringing people together through song.

Keystone State Boychoir member Matthew F. as guest conductor

As every Keystone State Boychoir singer recites before donning his KSB green jacket for the first time:

Whether at home or abroad, we promise to represent with honor our Choir, the city of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the United States of America, in word, in deed, and in song.

Happy Independence Day

You can celebrate our global ambassadors by making a gift today. Click here to make your gift.

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The boys are off with Martha and the chaps enjoying a well deserved day at a water park outside of Prague.  I stayed back to blog – hardly a minute to write when you’re singing with, and keeping safe and sound, 59 boys.

Speaking of the boys, they have done a noble job of absorbing a lot of very heavy subject matter on the Holocaust and specifically, Terezin.  While we’ve attempted to moderate the information flow based on age, and certainly the boys have been well prepared to handle the topic gradually over time, there’s no way around it – this is heavy stuff for any age, let alone young people. They more than deserve a day off to just be boys on a careless summer day.  What better way to achieve that than Europe’s largest water park?

Yesterday we had the great honor of being guided around Terezin with Inge.  Everywhere we walked, we were regaled with stories of her time there – filled with hardship and tragedy, though she pointed out that there was always hope.  As Stephen Schwartz wrote in the song “When You Believe”, though hope is frail it’s hard to kill.  Inge commented to me at one point that “she doesn’t know why she’s here, why she made it.” The odds of survival were so low (out of 15,000 children, 100 survived), and fate was so random with no rhyme or reason.  And yet, yesterday, it was clear to me why Inge made it – to charge 59 American boys in a most profound way that they are now her ambassadors, to pass onto the next generation the warning of what can happen when hate prevails.

There were many incredible moments yesterday. Some highlights:

-when we arrived at Terezin, Inge had us hold hands, commenting that if people had always held hands, there might not be a Terezin Museum

 

-taking a photo with Inge under the “Arbeit Macht Frei” entrance

-standing in a small, one room living quarter for 90, realizing that the number of people who were forced to live there was the same as all of our boys, chaperones, staff plus 16 more people.  one toilet. wooden bunks. #incomprehensible

-seeing the cell where the assassin who started World War I was imprisoned. (our history buffs were blissed out)

-walking through the extensive tunnels that are part of the Terezin fortress walls. #boyheaven

-having the KSB Vedem boys perform Vedem poems in the very room where the Vedem boys lived and published their magazine. #surreal

-having Immanuel perform a late Brahams piano piece in the attic of the Magdeburg Barracks, where many of the musical performances that took place in Terezin were rehearsed, often in secret – Verdi’s Requiem, Bizet’s Carmen, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, Krasa’s Brundibar.  Normally the attic is off limits to tourists but we had a VIP among us – Inge! It was amazing to add our music to that space – with music from past years that represented hope to so many – including many children.  Inge added that never in a million years would the Terzin kids, who felt like the world had forgotten them, could have imagined that a bunch of American boys would return there to do just that – remember them.

-the Grads singing Oseh Shalom at the Terezin moratorium and crematorium. (over 50,000 Jews died in Terezin itself, and another 90,000 perished after being transported out of Terezin to camps East)

It was incredibly touching to see the boys instinctively take care of Inge throughout the day.  They freely offered her hugs.  Without instruction, they would take her hand, or her arm, and walk with her along the cobbled streets of Terezin. They would ask if she was okay.  They would put her arm around her when she would cry a bit, perhaps when she would remember a friend who didn’t make it.  And sometimes the boy showing Inge the most tenderness was the boy none of us would guess had the capacity to do so.  And that is the beauty of tour – it can bring out the very best in the boys.  #growth

Know that all of your boys are okay, and that, whatever loss of innocence has resulted in their journey, they are forever changed by this experience in ways that are important to our world today, where hate continues to prevail.  The ways in which Terezin and knowing (and loving) Inge will inform their lives, will mostly be subtle, but they will be profound and vital.  The ways that it has transformed their lives is real and permanent and invaluable.

And at the end of the day, Inge was happy to have dessert, as were the boys, and in the great tradition of KSB tours, there were Magnum bars for one and all, and so we continue on the road together.

More later…

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Greetings from Prague –

We’ve had plenty of success in posting on facebook and instagram, but wifi insufficient for much else. The boys are off singing at the Hagibor retirement home today, and I am staying behind to find better wifi than what’s in our hostel lobby, where Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album is playing. Sorta strange to be listening to “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” today…

To catch up:

Sunday’s concert – The boys had the great privilege of performing in the theater of Schwetzingen Palace, the summer home of the princes of this region of Germany. Built in 1753, Mozart performed here when he was 7 years old! In honor of that, our accompanist, Immanuel Mykyta-Chomsky wowed the sold out house playing the final movement of Mozart’s 12th Piano Sonata

 

 

Between the rehearsal and the concert, the boys walked the formal gardens that are reminiscent of Versaille with reflecting pools, water spouting statuary, and all manner of topiary, etc.

We shared the concert with three other choirs, one the age of the trainers and apprentices, one the age of Towne and Concert Choir, and a PG Motet-aged girlchoir. We sang two sets, and of course finished with the typical South African set outside the venue. A typical tour treat is hearing new boys take on solos like Andrew P singing “Baba Yetu” and Calvin W.  singing “In the Still of the Night.

The concert was sold out, and the audience not disappointed! The boys’ host families turned out in full force with the affection that had grown quickly over the first four nights of the tour. As usual, the boys have been terrific ambassadors of our choir and our country. The audience was delighted and impressed with the diversity of repertoire, the quality of the singing, and the excitement of watching the choir, especially so to an audience more accustomed to boys standing still with their hands behind their back. A perfect end to the first leg of the tour, made even more so with the addition of KSB alumni Alexander and Konstantin Minch joining the grads for a few pieces. Alexander and Konstantin, sons of our ace tour planner Angela Wende, sang and toured with KSB for many years before moving back to Germany.

 

Nuremberg

On Monday we said goodbye to Heidelberg, boarded the buses for Nuremberg, a halfway point between Heidelberg and Prague. Boys continued having their individual time talking with Inge about “I Am A Star” and her experiences in Terezin. For a couple of bus rides, I’ve been sitting in front of Inge, and so have had the chance to eavesdrop, and have been impressed to a boy with their thoughtful, insightful questions and with their engagement with Inge, which always ends with a hug.

First stop in Nuremberg was a formal reception in the mayor’s office. After the reception, a walk through the old town led to a detour into the Church of St. Sebald, a gothic vaulted ceiling, just the kind of space for a boychoir! Didn’t have to be asked twice when a church staff wondered if the boys would sing. Zikr and Ani Ma’amin may not have been what they expected, but the boys sounded so beautiful in the space that expectations were exceeded.

Our final stop was a tour of the Palace of Justice, including Courtroom 600, site of the Nuremberg Trials of 1946, the first time in history when war criminals were tried for crimes against humanity. This stop was especially meaningful for me, since my 95 year old dad, who served in World War II in the 1258th Army Engineers, was part of the American team who prepared the Palace of Justice for the trials in the summer of 1945. It was quite moving to stand where he stood at the end of the war, at an age not much older than the grads. I shared his story with the boys, reading a text that he sent me with his memories, adding the voice of an American GI to Inge’s stories.

Harry Platt (right) somewhere in France, 1945

Monday concluded with a delicious dinner where the boys could make their own choices from the menu, and then were turned out into the square to buy some ice cream afterwards. Back at our hostel, we turned the corner from homestays to what the rest of the trip will be, hostels and hotels!

On Tuesday, once again we loaded the buses, this time to Prague, but with a first stop at the Nuremberg Rally Grounds, to witness the site of Hitler’s rise to power. Once again, the boys were thoughtful in processing this experience. Alex G. pondered the dissonance between the quiet park grounds with the intensity of the hatred that once filled the place where we walked. At our final stop, the stands where Hitler spoke and where the allies tore down the Nazi swastika, we sang Ani Ma’amin and the Star Spangled Banner, marking our visit in song.

 

 

Prague – longest leg of the tour.

We’re settled into our home for the week, and have started to explore this most beautiful of European cities. In addition to planned performances, the boys have been singing everywhere! If you’re following us on instagram and facebook you’ve seen the video evidence, everywhere from Prague’s iconic Charles Bridge to the packed restaurant where we had dinner on the first night.

The mornings have included rehearsals and performances at Hagibor, a project of the Jewish Community in Prague, both a retirement home and a day care. We’ve been joined by students of the Lauder School, which originally served the community as a Jewish orphanage in the pre-WWII era, and was site of the first performance of Brundibár.

Yesterday afternoon, the boys sang the national anthem at an early July 4th party at the US Ambassador’s residence, then filled themselves with endless food from Burger King, KFC, Starbucks, etc, and rubbed elbows with diplomats and generals. #tourheaven say the veteran singers and chaps!

It’s a rainy afternoon, so the plan to do some sightseeing may be replaced with a movie before we make our way to the Spanish Synagogue for this evening’s concert. The boys are having a great time – everyone is happy and healthy, well fed, and sounding great.

Thanks to all the chaps for their photos. We will keep adding more pictures to this post as wifi allows.

 

-Martha

 

 

 

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On Friday night we had our first full concert, a joint program with the Heidelberg Youth Choir, at the Heidelberg Music School.  The performance opened with hundreds of American and German young people singing South African welcome songs, led by Tabong, South African artist in residence at the school.   It was great fun to see his reaction as our boys absorbed the pieces so quickly – ones they had never heard before.  Fast forward to the end of concert, when KSB surprised Tabong with our South African medley.  How he beamed!  He was truly astounded.  He joined in with all of them even though he didn’t know our songs.  Of course he did!  That is the South African way! That is UBUNTU!  He told me afterwards that hearing our boys sing brought him home to South Africa. We plan to collaborate next year in South Africa.

The other highlight of the concert was when Alexander Minch joined us for some standard rep pieces. Now a grown man working for Lufthansa, Alex also beamed  as he “came home again” to sing with KSB.  He and his brother Konstantin sang with us for many years.  A million thanks to his mother Angela Wende, who did so much planning to make this tour a success.  She is serving as our Tour Manager, with us every step of the way.  ANGELA,WIER LIEBEN EUCH!

Yesterday, Saturday we travelled to Stuttgart to perform with the Hymnus Boychoir of Stuttgart.  They hosted us for a concert back in 2008 on our first tour to Germany. We then hosted them in 2014 in Philadelphia, and so this is a growing friendship that both choirs treasure. They took such good care of our boys – especially the Hymnus choir moms who made sure our boys had plenty to eat at every turn.  Some things are universal!  A good opportunity to thank all of our parent volunteers for all they do for KSB – back at home and abroad. We have an amazing group of chaperones who are taking such good care of us.   To Jachai May, Linda Deis, Chris Day, Lori Flynn, Sarah Foster, Aimee Hydock, Susan Klein, Sarah McMenamin, Chris Simcox and Tom Wamser…VIELEN DANK!

Today, Sunday, we will perform in surely one of the most beautiful, unique venues in KSB’s history.  More later on that, as well as our truly profound experience yesterday with Inge visiting the railway platform from which she departed for Terezin.  The opportunity we had to share this sacred place with Inge is something that will stay with all of us for our whole lives.

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Hello from Germany!

We have completed our second full day of tour and all is well.  It takes a few days to “get the wheels on the bus.”  Jet leg to get over.  Extreme heat to deal with.  Lots of protocols and tour rules to follow. Grace period is now over and fines will begin tomorrow.  We’ll start at 1 Euro.  Fines amounts for infractions will increase as the tour goes on.  The reality is, hitting their spending money is the fastest way to get their attention.  And following the rules of tour is not just about order.  It is vital to keeping the boys safe and sound.  And of course, the boys always have the opportunity to earn their money back.  With stand out performance faces, offering a kind word or performing a random act of tour kindness…

Our itinerary has been quite full with singing and cultural opportunities. A full schedule is crucial for happy boys free from homesickeness.  They need to stay busy and to fall into bed tired.

And of course the homestay experience is a great gift.  The chance to live as other cultures live is invaluable and will shape the boys, giving them a global, open, tolerant perspective as they move through their lives.  Look for photos of your boys and their homestays soon.

Tomorrow, Friday, is our first full concert – joint with our hosts, the Heidelberg Youth  Choir.  Up until now it’s been schools concerts (very well received) and mayoral meet and greets.  Germany loves its mayors!  #rathouse.

And can I tell you how INCREDIBLE it is travelling with Inge.  She is AWESOME. She is always POSITIVE and HAPPY. A great lesson for all of us, considering what she’s been through.  What a great gift to me.  When the boys are complaining that “it sucks” that they didn’t get to have ice cream, I simply invite them to sit with Inge and have her tell them how much “it sucked” to go to Terezin.   Inge also has an amazing sense of humor and remarkable perspective about her journey – and a great capacity to forgive and see the good in people.

The boys are able to sit with Inge during bus rides – we always keep her seat empty for visitors.   They can ask her questions that come up as they’re reading her very famous book “I Am A Star.”  Once they finish the book, she rewards them with a book signing.  And then they get the privilege of holding the Star of David she wore in Terezin.  I have told the boys that THIS is their college essay.  To travel with a Survivor, literally following her journey from Germany to Terezin.  Wow.

Most lovely of all, Inge trades in hugs.  That’s all she asks in return for sharing her story.  And the boys freely give them.

#sweet

#powerful

#IngeHugs

More later…

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Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

KSB takes to the road on Tuesday, June 20 for a 15 night/16 day tour of Germany and the Czech Republic. The boys will be visiting and singing in Mannheim, Heidelberg, Mosbach, Stuttgart, Schwetzingen, Nuremberg, Prague, Terezin, and Frankfurt, including a sold-out Grand Concert at Rokokotheatre Schwetzingen Palace! Follow the tour on the KSB Tour page or the see the latest blog posts and itinerary on the Germany/Czech Republic tour page! And receive notifications of new Blog posts by subscribing to KSBlog – sign up to the right on the KSBlog page.

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