Eight-year-old Maya Abraham jumped, and spun, and projected her singing voice as loudly as she could through the outdoor pavilion at Lovelace Park.
Singing “makes everybody happy,” proclaimed Maya, now starting her third year as a member of the Evanston-based Youth Chorus of the North Shore.
The children’s singing group has been practicing outdoors for the past 18 months due to COVID-19, masked, socially distanced, and even staying as comfy as possible with coats on in February. Those winter sessions lasted no more than thirty minutes, versus the normal hour-and-a-half indoors pre-COVID.
“It was cold,” Maya said, “but we managed. We moved our bodies to keep us warm, and sang to keep us happy. We played games and we all went home happy and ready for bed.”
Hard to argue with that.
But on Wednesday, the Chorus held what should be the last outdoor practice unless COVID increases significantly.
Director Lauren Sklar said the group will resume indoor sessions at the Jewish Reconstructionist Synagogue in Evanston next week. Sklar said a national chorus and band safety group, along with the State of Illinois, have okayed rehearsing inside, as long as COVID mitigation measures are taken.
Sklar, who had previously worked with the internationally known Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus, founded her North Shore group five years ago. Her young musicians are from second through fourth grade in one group, and fifth through eighth grade in another.
“The whole purpose” of the chorus, Sklar said, is to give youngsters “a joy-filled adventure in musicianship.” Sklar said while local schools have excellent music programs, the chorus is for those who want even more.
One of those youngsters is nine-year-old Elliott Crosby.
“I sang at home,” Elliott explained. “My parents liked it, and signed me up for the chorus.”
Elliott said he likes Christmas music, even in July, along with jazz any time of year.
“Singing makes me really happy, and I feel big inside,” he said.
When Sklar started the chorus, there were only nine participants. The group grew to 30 before COVID. Last year, the number dropped to 15 hardy souls who braved the cold.
Nearly all of those wintertime songbirds are back, Sklar said. And while the total is now only 12, there is room for more, who want to learn and perform all types of music.
Some singing ability is required for an audition. Enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn are just as important.
“It sounds cheesy,” Sklar said, “but I really love what I do, and feel so fortunate to teach and influence and inspire and challenge” the children.
“The pandemic gave us all time to reflect on our lives,” she added, and helping young people have fun and grow seemed more right than ever.
There is, of course, the chance that the Youth Chorus might have to move back outside. COVID has proven to be resilient.
But Sklar said “flexibility is the key, making the most of the time working together, wherever it may be.”
And there finally will be concerts, something Maya loves to do.
She analyzed singing this way: “Even if you don’t like doing it, you like hearing it.”
The members of Youth Chorus like both.
“I do it because it’s fun,” said Elliott. “I love to sing.”