'Devine' singing with Elgin Children's Chorus

 
By David Heun
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/7/2012 12:08 PM
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  • The Elgin Children's Chorus will perform Sunday, March 11, at Elgin Community College. Special guest will be Michael Devine, a former member of the chorus.

    The Elgin Children's Chorus will perform Sunday, March 11, at Elgin Community College. Special guest will be Michael Devine, a former member of the chorus. Christopher Hankins/Daily Herald 2005

  • Michael Devine will perform with the Elgin Children's Chorus at its spring concert, "Magical Melodies," set for 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11, at Elgin Community College. Devine, a 2005 Elgin High School graduate, is an alumnus of the Elgin Children's Chorus and the Vienna Boys Choir, and is pursuing a master's degree in sacred music.

    Michael Devine will perform with the Elgin Children's Chorus at its spring concert, "Magical Melodies," set for 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11, at Elgin Community College. Devine, a 2005 Elgin High School graduate, is an alumnus of the Elgin Children's Chorus and the Vienna Boys Choir, and is pursuing a master's degree in sacred music. Courtesy of Sarah L. Carnes

Michael Devine may not qualify as an "American Idol" with his choral singing, but he's an idol nonetheless in the eyes of Elgin Children's Chorus members.

Even more so now that Devine, who is completing his masters in sacred music at Luther Seminary and St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has committed to return to Elgin on Sunday to sing with the choir he performed in as a youngster.

Devine, a 2005 Elgin High School graduate who also honed his skills as a member of the Vienna Boys Choir, will join the Elgin Children's Chorus at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11, for the "Magical Melodies" concert at the Elgin Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center.

"I'm very excited to perform again at V-PAC because it was a big part of my youth with the chorus and also with the Elgin Youth Symphony," said Devine, who has numerous significant soprano performances with world-renown singers and musicians on his resume.

While still a young man at 25, Devine is an experienced veteran of church music, garnering what amounts to worldly experiences in Elgin and Vienna that vaulted him into directing choirs at various churches the past decade while continuing his studies.

Devine, now a baritone, first joined the Elgin Children's Chorus in 1995 as a 9-year-old third-grader. Nearly three years later, he auditioned and earned a soprano spot in the Vienna Boys Choir, where he sang for two years.

"At that time, I understood, but only to a certain extent, the value of such an experience," Devine said. "But certainly not as much as I do now in realizing the value and importance of it."

Singing in such places as the Austrian Imperial Chapel with the most famous church choir in the world can mature a young singer beyond his years, even though Devine could not grasp that at age 12.

"Experiencing performing in places like that adds a level of comprehension and expectations that didn't compute with me at the time," Devine said. "But I certainly have a great appreciation for it now."

That appreciation translates into significant talent and confidence, traits the young singers in the Elgin Children's Chorus can't wait to experience, according to chorus executive Director Beth Boelter.

"The choristers are pretty excited to realize that an alum is returning to work with them, sing with them, and share a little about his time with the chorus, as well as some of his other experiences as a young chorister," said Boelter, who has been executive director of the chorus for the past year.

"It is quite remarkable that we have this bit of very interesting and supportive history with the chorus," Boelter added.

The fact that Devine returned to Elgin in 1999 to perform with the chorus for another year as a seventh-grader after two years in Vienna speaks volumes of what he thought of the program in his hometown.

"Even with Vienna being such an experience, my first inspirational experience was with the Elgin Children's Chorus," Devine said.

The Elgin Children's Chorus "built a long-lasting love of music and singing," while the Vienna experience provided a "level of creativity," he added.

"The two, combined, provided terrific training at such a young age," Devine recalled.

Boelter believes Devine's appearance Sunday likely will create a lasting impression for many young singers.

"Michael continues to excel and share in his love of music," Boelter said. "This experience is a great testament to the excellent music program that has been provided in Elgin over the years."

Even though not all members of the chorus will eventually pursue singing or directing careers, Boelter feels the chorus provides positive direction for those who do.

"Some of their most formative years have been blessed with extremely important lessons in stage presentation, ensemble vs. solo singing, blending voices to be 'one' and working together," Boelter said.

In addition, Boelter said, having someone like Michael Devine return to perform gives those focused on music as a career "a great role model" to follow.

At Sunday's concert, Devine will sing some selections of his own choice, followed by an opportunity for participants of a recent Boys Power Sing Workshop to sing onstage with the chorus and Devine for a rendition of "Molly Malone," a traditional Irish folk song.

Devine plans to sing Austrian folk song "Singa Is Ins're Freud ('Singing is our Joy')" with the group's concert choir.

The concert also will feature "The Cider Song," an arrangement by Jay Kellner, the chorus founder and director.

Devine, who works with young singers at various workshops, said it is important for members of the chorus to walk away from their experience "loving music more than when you first came in."

A chorus represents the true measure of teamwork and installs the spirit of cooperation, Devine said.

"Many shows on TV these days like 'The Voice' and 'American Idol' are great because they are exposing a wider culture to the vocal experience," Devine said. "But the way the singers are portrayed has the potential to be damaging because the focus is on 'me' instead of on 'us.'"

The children's chorus, which currently has about 100 members, begins its 26th year of "teaching life through song," Boelter noted.

"We feel blessed to have given several thousand children such opportunities, over the years, and feel certain that their experiences through music will give them a lifetime of memories," Boelter said.

And for some, she added, the nudge to pursue their dream in the field of music.

Michael Devine figures to contribute greatly to that nudge Sunday.

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