Cultivating Creativity: Local youth chorus inspires confidence through music

By Angela Hawn

Do you love to sing? Looking for a group aged nine to 19 who feels the same way? It just might be time to sign up for the Hastings and Prince Edward Regional Chorus (HPERC).

When the group started under the steady helm of Rudolf Heijdens in 1986, even he could not have envisioned the many successes the choir would go on to enjoy. The choir has long impressed audiences both at home and abroad. Whether entertaining a Belleville audience with its annual selection of Christmas favourites, participating in festivals in Salzburg, Austria, or serenading ticket holders in Prague with folk songs sung in Czech, these young people always leave their listeners wanting more.

When Jen Curtis took over the senior choir’s leadership last year, the group knew it was in good hands. A former chorister herself, Jen later worked under Maestro Heijdens’ mentorship as assistant conductor before taking over her new role in 2018.

Extensively trained in both piano and voice, undoubtedly her career as elementary school teacher also plays a role in Curtis’ easy rapport with the choristers. She genuinely loves teaching music and working with kids.

“I’ve been telling potential members about how we are more than just a group that creates quality music,” says Curtis, with a smile. “And while it’s important to uphold the choir’s high standards, we’re also about having fun and creating lifelong memories.”

Curtis enthusiastically goes on to describe the many benefits HPERC membership brings. Whether exploring the world on a European tour or attending weekend choir camp right here in Prince Edward County, choir members always have a good time. Kids might come home talking about a new piece of music they’ve just learned, or about some cool new moves practised on the camp archery range. Whatever the case, Curtis stresses the choir offers plenty of opportunities to develop leadership skills and bond with others in a friendly, welcoming environment that’s accessible to all.

Jessica Silva, winner of a Quinte Arts Council Student Arts Bursary, has been a member for six years; four years as part of the touring choir, which took her on two European tours – life-changing experiences that helped inspire her to pursue to post-secondary studies in music.

“Even the parents have a good time,” says Curtis. “More than one mom or dad has been known to stay on in a supportive role, long after their own child has graduated and moved on to other things.”

In fact, HPERC associates often return to their old stomping grounds. Long-time accompanist and talented musician Claudia Scott recently rejoined the choir after a brief hiatus, and chorister alumni frequently count among the audience at concerts, happy to reunite with old friends and hear familiar tunes.

Just ask my own two kids, both thrilled to have spent time with the choir. Years of rehearsals and prepping for concerts took them from singing with gusto in the shower (and anywhere else with reasonable acoustics) to singing with confidence on a stage. Not only did it boost their musical abilities,

but they made life-long friends, travelled the world and yes, they even picked up a few pointers on the archery range. Regrets? None. How do they rate the HPERC? A perfect ten out of ten.

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