Celebration Singers Childen's Choir celebrate 15th anniversary
with spring concert May 21-22, 2010

New Jersey Today - Suburban News
Wednesday, April 13, 2010

[Children's Choir]

The Celebration Singers Children's Choir, under the direction of Tom Pedas, is currently preparing for its spring concert "Music Memories" which will be performed on May 21 and 22 at the Harvest Center in Cranford. This year marks the 15th year that the Children's Choir has been entertaining audiences young and old and providing a tuition free choral experience for the area's young people. Many alumni are returning to participate in this year's concert.

When Tom Pedas became the director of the Celebration Singer's adult choir in 1995, he approached the Officers about starting a tuition free children's choir. They were receptive; and the Celebration Singer's Children Choir began. Most of the 30 original children were from the Cranford Public Schools where Pedas taught music. His goal was to give the children a greater opportunity to learn and perform music, ranging from the classics to Broadway show tunes.

Although there are many children's choruses throughout New Jersey, the Celebration Children's Choir is unique in that it is tuition free and is sponsored by an adult choir. The children usually perform with the adult choir, providing the children with the adults as role models, and giving them the opportunity to see that singing can be a life long enjoyable activity. Often, parents singing in the adult choir have had children singing in the children's choir which also gives intergenerational warmth to the concerts. Former children's choir members have gone on to become teachers; several teaching music.

Many former Children's Choir members have returned to become members of the adult choir.

Founded in September 1995 the Children's Choir has grown into a formidable group, boasting over 70 current members from Union, Middlesex and Somerset Counties, representing more than thirty communities. During the past 15 years, over 300 children have benefited from participation in the Children's Choir. It should be noted that the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Honor Choirs consistently have many current and former members from our choir.

Pedas conducted the choir for five years before taking a three-year leave of absence, during which the children were directed by Khy Garner, Stacey Atwell-Keister and Sean Berg, the current adult choir director. In the fall of 2004 Tom returned as director of the Children's Choir.

Over the past several years the Celebration Children's Choir has given over $2,000 in scholarships to its members to continue their studies at summer camps. The Children's Choir performed in a Katrina Benefit Concert that raised $3,700 for Katrina victims.

The repertoire of the Children's Choir has traditionally been all treble music (for unchanged voices).

When several of the boys in the choirs experienced voice changes, Pedas decided to start a young men's ensemble of older boys whose voices were in various stages of change. This Young Men's Ensemble, consisting of 14-18 young men, sings separately as well as with the Children's Choir and adult choirs, and have performed several times with the Rahway Jerseyaires Barbershop Group.

Funding has been made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, through a grant administered by the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.

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Celebration Singer Childen Make ACDA Honor Choir

The Westfield Leader and Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times
Wednesday, April 12, 2007

[National Honors winners]
Director Tom Pedas poses with Jake Forrestal, Paul Wright, and Bridget McCoy
from Cranford; Taylor Diken from Scotch Plains and Christopher Gliebe from Green Brook
at the American Choral Directors Association in Florida.

Seventeen students from New Jersey, five of Cranford's Celebration Singers' Children's Choir, recently sang at the American Choral Directors Association meeting in Florida.

The five students, Jake Forrestal and Paul Wright from Hillside Avenue School in Cranford, Bridget McCoy from Orange Avenue School in Cranford, Taylor Diken from Terrill Middle School in Scotch Plains and Christopher Gliebe from Green Brook Middle School, sing under the direction of Tom Pedas.

The American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) holds a National Conference every two years in a different part of the country. More than 6,000 choral directors attend this conference and top choirs from around the world are invited to perform. As a part of the conference, a National Youth Honor Choir was chosen from more than 3,000 tapes submitted by choral directors from around the country. The choir of 300 rehearsed for three days in Miami under the direc- tion of Jean Ashworth Bartle, director of the Toronto Children's Chorus and then performed two concerts at the 3,000-seat Jackie Gleason Auditorium in Miami Beach.

The choir sang a variety of songs in different languages for the convention attendees and parents. Among them were a Japanese song called "Hotaru Koi" (Ho, Firefly), music from Bach's "Magnificat", "Quando Corpus" from Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" and "Inscription of Hope" about the Holocaust.

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Young and Talented

Voices From Across the Nation Join in Harmony

by Allison Freeman, Star-Ledger Staff
The Star-Ledger
Wednesday, March 17, 1999

[News Article] A funny thing happened to David Roux as he prepared to sing with the National Boys‘ Honor Choir.

David, 12, was selected for the elite choir last August. But by the time the choir performed for the American Choral Directors Association at its convention in Chicago last month, his voice had begun to change.

“I was selected for Soprano II and by the time I got there my voice was already breaking, which made it all the more difficult,” said David, a ninth-grader at Churchill Junior High School in East Brunswick. “I had to stick to the Soprano II part, but I made it okay.”

More than 4,000 choral directors from across the country attended the conference Feb 24-27. It concluded with performances by the boys' choir as well as the National Women's Honor Choir and first-ever National High School Honor Choir.

Nine high school students, four women and six boys from New Jersey were selected to participate in the three groups. (The women's choir included singers from ages 16 to 75, while the boys' group took youths from elementary school through ninth grade.)

The singers were chosen on the basis of audition tapes.

“It is a tremendous honor for a student or choir to be selected,” said Tom Pedas, a music teacher at Hillside Avenue School in Cranford and director of the Celebration Singers, a children's choral and performing group.

Kristin Checchio, a junior at Rutgers Prep in Franklin Township, was one of the youngest members of the National Women's Honor Choir.

“Getting selected was like an affirmation that all of my hard work has paid off,” said Kristin, 17, from Dunellen. “Anyone can be in a school choir, but this was really limited.”

Kristin said she enjoyed performing in such a large chorus with 190 women from across the country.

Erika Redler, a senior at J.P. Stevens High School in Edison, said she was shocked when she was chosen as a member of the women's group. She was sick when she auditioned and did not expect to make it.

“Singing is my passion,” said Redler, 18, who plans to major in music at the College of New Jersey in Ewing in the fall. “Music is a way of expressing my feelings, and I put everything into it.”

The conference is a great way for children and teenagers interested in choral music to make friends from around the country, Pedas said, “You get to meet other kids who are really excited about choral music. The whole event is like the Super Bowl for choral people.”

Ben Gray of Bridgewater initially didn't make the cut for the 240-member National High School Honor Choir, but was offered a spot in October after another student dropped out.

The 17-year-old senior at Bridgewater-Raritan High School jumped at the opportunity to perform in the concert at Chicago's Medinah Temple, he said,“It was one of the highlights of my life.”

Todd Wilson, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Cranford's Hillside Avenue School and a member of the Celebration Singers in Cranford, said he enjoyed learning and listening to music at the conference and making new friends.

The experience probably gave him a much stronger voice, he said. “I learned a lot of breathing exercises which helped me with my singing.”

Joan Roux, David's mother, who served as a chaperone, said she was surprised at the sound of the choir, “They sang beautifully — they sounded celestial, ”she said. “It really exceeded my expectations.”

Other New Jerseyans selected for the choirs are: Lee Jablow of Rutgers Prep; Brendan Stuart of the Haddonfield Children's Chorus; Joseph Turro of the McKeown School in Newton; John Krastin of Gateway Regional High School in Woodbury Heights, Gloucester County; Kristy LaRocco and Lauren Piegaro of Monroe Township High School; Trina Bass, Meara Lebovitz, Lindsay Lipman and Garrett Miller of Cherry Hill; Karisteen Kates of the Westminister Choir College Symphonic Choir at Rider University, and Rebecca Tombleson of the Church of the Incarnation in Sewell, Gloucester County.

The honor choirs program is held every two years, in a different city. Students interested in participating in the choirs can e-mail Tom Pedas at TPEDAS@aol.com.

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Young and Talented

Choir members make their voices heard

by Allison Freeman, Star-Ledger Staff
The Star-Ledger
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Eric Loy, 12, of Franklin Township in Somerset County, said he was overwhelmed at his first rehearsal for the National Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir last week.

Kids sitting around him in the large hotel ballroom were from Florida, Virginia and Connecticut. There were children representing every state in the country and Japan.

"It is an honor to be in a choir with kids from around the country," said Eric, a seventh grader at Rutgers Prep in Somerset. "I feel like a small kid from New Jersey in a great big honor choir. I guess that is how everyone else feels, too."

Eric was among 48 young New Jersey singers who were selected for the 2003 American Choral Directors Association National Honor Choirs. There are three honor choirs. Their rehearsals and concerts coincide with the association's biennial convention, which was held in New York City for the first time.

The choirs spent several days last week in New York rehearsing for their concerts. They performed on Saturday at New York's Riverside Church for family, friends and 7,000 choral directors from across the country.

The convention traditionally features different honor choirs each time it is held.

This year, the convention featured a National Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir, with 13 children from New Jersey; a National Men and Boys Honor Choir, with 19 boys from New Jersey, and a National Women's Honor Choir, including 16 girls from New Jersey.

"It is great to represent New Jersey, and in effect we are also representing the United States," said Catrina Coffey, 12, of Cranford.

Members of the choirs are chosen from across the country and from abroad. They were selected through audition tapes and were notified in January.

Between 1,400 and 2,000 singers tried out for each of the three choirs. The ensembles ranged from 300 to 325 members.

Emily O'Connor, 17, of Fanwood, said she was shocked when she learned she was accepted for the women's choir. "I've always thought that being in All-State was amazing enough!"

Emily was a member of this year's New Jersey All-State Choir, which is composed of the best high school singers in the state.

Tom Pedas , choral director at Hillside Avenue School in Cranford, had four students selected for the honor choirs this year. Pedas, a New Jersey member of the American Choral Directors Association, said he was excited for the children.

"This is so enriching and motivating," said Pedas, who spent several hours last week with his students at rehearsals. "At the end, you see the reaction on their faces."

Melissa Martin, 14, of Metuchen, already had that amazed look during a rehearsal of the National Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir last Wednesday. "I like the fact that I am meeting so many new people and having so many new experiences," Melissa said. "I love just being in New York City and singing. I have never done anything like this before."

"It's the best of the best," said Allison Mello, 14, of Fredon Township, also a member of the junior high choir. "You are with kids from across the country who enjoy the same thing that you do."

For some of the boys, it was the first time they sang in a choir with adult men.

Douglas Ballanco, 12, of Basking Ridge, and Sean Chen, 11, of Martinsville, sing in a boys treble choir at Rutgers Prep. "It is an amazing experience to sing with men with lower voices," Douglas said. "There is a much better harmonization effect with tenors and basses."

"If you have a choir without basses, it is like an orchestra with only violins," Sean noted.

"I am singing with the best men and boys from across the country," Douglas said, adding he had never performed in such a large choir before.

The national honor choirs sing more difficult music than many of the students are used to, and also have the opportunity to premiere some new works. The junior high honor choir rehearsed the African spiritual song "Duono Akuru" with its composer, Rollo Dillworth, and later rehearsed a medley from the Broadway show "Thoroughly Modern Millie" with the show's arranger, Jeanine Tesori.

Henry Leck, the conductor of the Indianapolis Children's Choir, was the conductor of the National Junior High/Middle School Honor Choir. He worked with the kids in rehearsals last Wednesday night and all day Thursday and Friday.

"You are talented kids, but you sound like a little choir to me," Leck said, walking around looking at the 319 youths who sat around him in a circle in the grand ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel. "Can you make a bigger sound?"

And they did. Leck smiled and then it was on to the next song.

Some parents, who sat patiently in the back of the ballroom during the rehearsal, smiled, too. Many parents accompanied children to the convention and stayed at hotels in the city.

Some singers were sponsored by their school districts, but most of them had to pay for their hotel stays.

This is the first time the American Choral Directors Association has held its national convention in New York City because it is expensive, Pedas noted.

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Tom Pedas, The Celebration Singers and Children's Chorus


e-mail Tom Pedas at: tpedas@aol.com