Three children’s choirs from across the U.S. perform at Emanuel AME Church

Sacremento Children’s Chorus, under the direction of Lynn Stevens, sang several selections in front of Emanuel AME Church on Friday morning. Three choirs — the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, Phoenix Girls Chorus and Sacramento Children’s Chorus — sang outside the church to honor the nine shooting victims.

They finished their last song, and for several cathartic minutes, the young women of the Sacramento Children’s Chorus stood consoling each other in front of Emanuel AME Church.

Though the northern California girls aren’t accustomed to the sweltering Charleston heat, they seemed unaffected by it. Rather, what caused these teenagers to shed tears was the experience of singing at the scene of such a tragedy.

She had finished conducting, but director Lynn Stevens was still focused on her choir.

“You’re not performing,” Stevens recalled telling the girls earlier as they rehearsed. “This isn’t a show. It’s about you, and you feeling.”

The Sacramento chorus, which consists of girls ages 12 to 18, was one of three children’s choirs to sing in front of Emanuel AME on Friday. The Phoenix Girls Chorus, which features girls in seventh through 11th grades, followed slightly before noon with an a capella rendition of “America the Beautiful,” and the Chamber and Lyric choirs of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, which includes boys and girls in fifth and sixth grades, sang a couple of songs, including “We Shall Overcome,” later in the afternoon.

The three choirs, all community choirs in each of their cities, were visiting Charleston as part of the Coastal Song Children’s Choir Festival, which brings choirs from all over the country to sing at an array of venues in Charleston and Savannah.

The performances at Emanuel AME were not initially a part of the festival’s itinerary. The Sacramento group’s tour manager, Tracie Davis, said it was the girls in the choir who wanted to sing at Emanuel, which has become known nationwide after a white gunman allegedly killed nine black parishioners attending a Bible study on June 17.

Choir member Lindsey Jones, 15, said that she just felt so helpless being so far away from the tragedy. The tour in Charleston became the perfect way for them to show their support.

“The whole state of California has been moved,” Stevens said. “These girls are already involved in social justice. And as children, they are so full of hope. Through music, they touch the soul and show that we are all part of this.”

Phoenix Girls Chorus Director Danya Tiller also said that it was the girls of her choir who wanted to perform at Emanuel.

At these numerous requests, Coastal Song Children’s Choir Festival Director Josh Pedde, who also serves as a director of the participating Indianapolis Children’s Choir, added the Emanuel performances to the festival’s lineup. He said that he was glad that these young singers had the opportunity to honor the church and the grief-stricken city through music.

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Engagement Editor

Brooks Brunson has served as The Post and Courier's Engagement Editor since May 2018. She started at P&C in 2014 and has held several positions in the newsroom since, briefly leaving in 2017 for a stint as a Digital Editor with The Virginian-Pilot.