– By Katie Wheeler –
Music. It can be infinitely different sounds, combined in infinite ways. It is personal and universal. Sound vibrations travel through air and we receive, through our ear drums, through our skin even. Music is moving, music effects us. Making music is a natural part of life; there has always been rhythm, harmony and dissonance. Song. It is intrinsic to our very biology; our synapses fire in patterns, our heart beats its pulses, we breathe in tempo.
If you stand just outside the Freshwater Grange on a Wednesday evening you can hear a timeless and dreamy beauty floating out through the door. The children’s voices ring out and soften, varry and harmonize. The canons move in sweet rounds. The range and pitch fall around you like cherry blossoms in a warm breeze.
Sing. You are the original instrument. Song changes you from the inside out. Sing together and the possibilities expand.
Kathe Lyth has spent her life knowing and exploring this. She grew up in Berkeley with her father, a violinist and micro-biologist. “I always wrote music,” she says. She was an independent child. She remembers being five and packing up some food and hiking around the Oakland/Berkeley hills “believing I was one of the three little pigs.” And “I’m still doing it”, she says; the hiking around the woods part. When I caught up with her she had just come home from backpacking in the Trinitys.
Kathe started Redwood Coast Children’s Chorus in 1978 with “the mission of preparing children of all ages for participation in a concert-level performing group while developing individual musicianship and enthusiasm for musical achievement. Through unaccompanied part-singing, children increase their aesthetic senses, develop their intellectual and physical abilities and, most importantly, experience the joy of sharing beautiful music with each other, our local community and the world.”
The Chorus has gotten to travel to and live, rehearse and preform with children from many countries on their World Harmony Tours. The list includes Spain, Slovakia, Costa Rica, Ireland and Russia.
Kathe has been invited to these and other countries to teach choirs, mentor teachers and design curriculums, often involving outreach programs for impoverished children. Music can help close the gaps caused by lack of money and resources. Her experience, education, and application of theory and creativity is unique and inspirational.
Singing is being researched for everything from dementia and Alzheimer’s, pulmonary health, depression, to autism and speech therapy. Singing releases oxytocin and endorphins that are both relaxing and elevating. It is little wonder that the fascination of why and how music affects us had led to theories of teaching.
To learn more visit, Redwoodcoastchildrenschorus.net .
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