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Europe a cathedral of sound for young Elmira singers

Europe a cathedral of sound for young Elmira singers
Elmira locals Jasmine Thuroo, Karli Keen and Erin Shoemaker spent a week in Europe singing with the Grand Philharmonic Youth Choir. Absent: Annie Strauss. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Europe a cathedral of sound for young Elmira singers
Elmira locals Jasmine Thuroo, Karli Keen and Erin Shoemaker spent a week in Europe singing with the Grand Philharmonic Youth Choir. Absent: Annie Strauss. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Just returned from a week of checking out the sights and sounds – heavy on the latter – of Europe, four young Elmira residents have plenty to tell about a whirlwind week of singing and exploring as part of The Grand Philharmonic Youth Choir.

Jasmine Thuroo, Erin Shoemaker, Karli Keen and Annie Strauss were part of a group that sang at Pula’s ancient Amphitheatre, Rovinj’s St. Eufemija Basilica in Croatia, St. Martin’s Parish Church in Bled, Slovenia and the Basilica Di San Marco in Venice, Italy.

But those hardly capture the full extent of singing they did. From airports to restaurants to museums, the choir took full advantage of good acoustics whenever they could find it.

“It was amazing,” said Thuroo, who’s been part of the choir for two years.

“It was a lot of fun,” adds Shoemaker, who’s spent three years with the choir and previously sang with The Grand Philharmonic Children’s Choir.

The choir typically does a big trip like this every three to four years, along with smaller trips within Canada.

“There were so many beautiful places and the water was so nice. The churches were phenomenal,” said Keen, who’s sung with the choir for three years.

They sang a variety of musical styles on their trip, including musical theatre, secular, sacred and Canadian songs. Most of the songs were new to them this season, but they had already performed them in other concerts.

“And then some old songs we brought back,” Thuroo added.

On their time off they got to experience the different countries. They had a few city tours, a free day in Venice, and visited a cave in Slovenia. A couple people also went to museums in Venice and others took gondola rides.

They’ll also admit they may have tried gelato once or a half dozen times.

But singing trumps all.

“I loved singing in the churches,” Keen said.

That was also a highlight for Thuroo.

“Every church, the acoustics were so good,” Thuroo said.

And they got a high compliment from a priest at one of the churches they sang at, who said in his 40 years’ experience they were the best he’d ever heard.

Some 30 members make up the choir, and 22 went on the trip. They only had three male singers, one bass, one tenor, and one alto. One of them came up from the children’s choir to help out.

“It was a very different choir. We sounded so different. Some of the songs we didn’t really see them come together until we got there,” Shoemaker said.

She says she joined in Grade 8 because she was trying to decide between vocal lessons and choir, but decided she’d probably learn more from a choir environment since it’s such an interactive group.

“I heard from Erin about the choir. Before I joined I was in vocal lessons and my teacher was having a baby so I didn’t know what to do. I heard that this choir was really good, so I joined,” Keen said.

Thuroo’s voice teacher was moving and when she and the choir conductor, Amanda Brunk couldn’t find a time that would work for both of them for voice lessons, Brunk suggested the choir.

She says travelling with a group helped the choir members to come together.

“You get so much closer with the people. Our choir feels like a family,” Thuroo said.

“Before it was all sectioned off, the altos stuck with the altos, the sopranos stuck the sopranos,” Shoemaker said.

They’re on break now until September. Some of the children’s choir will be graduating into the youth choir in the fall, so there’ll be a new sound next season.

They all suggest interested singers look into the choir.

“It might scare you at first but it’s for sure a great experience and I would definitely recommend it to anyone,” Thuroo said.

A little more local for your inbox.

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won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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