WILMINGTON – While many of their friends will be sleeping in, watching football and sitting down to a big meal with family, 21 students from St. Ann’s School have other plans on Thanksgiving. Those members of the children’s choir are spending much of the day in Philadelphia as part of the 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade.
St. Ann’s group will be part of the Mass Youth Choir, consisting of elementary, middle and high school choirs. Approximately 1,000 singers stand on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and they perform in the grand finale. This year, the headliner is Sisaundra Lewis of “The Voice” fame.
The students have been practicing diligently for more than a month since finding out their application had been accepted. They rehearse many times during their lunch period, with the third- and fourth-graders practicing at one time, the fifth-through eighth-graders at another.
Big TV stage
“It’s a testament to the kids and their commitment. They take choir right after lunch. They give up part of their recess to do choir. They’re sacrificing a lot to make this commitment, including Thanksgiving Day,” choir director Andrea Arena said.
Arena said she’s not sure how 6abc decided to invite the St. Ann’s group, which performs a few concerts during the year, as well as at Mass and talent shows. She had few details about what exactly the choir will be doing. The students have to be in Philadelphia the day before Thanksgiving for a rehearsal. There are 36 children in the St. Ann’s choir, but only 21 of them could commit to the schedule.
The children are excited for the opportunity to sing on such a big stage. Maggie Northey, a seventh-grader, is looking forward to performing before a television audience of several million people.
“My life goal is to be a performer, so I’ve done a lot of stuff. I’ve done performances with Debbie Allen, but I’ve never been in a parade on television, so that will be cool,” she said.
Sixth-grade student Caroline Sweeney has been singing for three years. She said it’s an enjoyable way to express her feelings.
“I like the experience and the opportunity because I want to be a singer when I grow up,” she said.
Her classmate, Ben Allgeier, is one of just two boys from sixth through eighth grade in the choir. It will be his first time on television, but he’s not nervous about that or worried about the possibility of cold weather. He will be there with his sister, a third-grader who is also in the choir.
“It’s like a small community,” Ben said. “You go out every few days with all these people and sing.”
Kaylee Holden, a fifth-grader, has been singing for three years. She has never seen the Thanksgiving Day parade, and she has another reason to be pumped up about the day.
“It will probably be my first time going to Philadelphia, and I like traveling,” she said.
St. Ann’s showcase
Arena said the students have been diligent in rehearsals and are excited to showcase their talents on such a large stage with so many others.
“They just think we have to learn our hymns and our songs for Masses, and ‘I’ll do a Christmas concert in front of our friends and a spring concert,’ but this is a completely different animal,” she said. “They’ve really risen to the occasion.”
Caroline she’s “just a little” nervous about performing on television in front of such a big audience, but that’s OK because her family is “going to be proud of me no matter what.”