PUBLISHED: 5:04 PM on Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Alaska Youth Choir to perform Mother's Day tribute concert

  Courtesy photo The Alaska Youth Choir at a show. The choir will perform Saturday, May 13, at Northern Light Church.
When the Alaska Youth Choir takes the stage Saturday, May 13, at Northern Light United Church, they will be doing more than entertaining an audience. They will be paying tribute to mothers everywhere.

"Because We Sing-A Tribute to Mothers" will feature about 40 choristers between the ages of six and 18 singing songs of childhood. The youngest choir members will be singing songs about animals, while the intermediate choir will be singing some familiar childhood favorites, including "Circle 'round the Moon."

"The highlight of the evening will be the 'Nursery Rhyme Cantata' by Nick Page, which features seven pieces of music intertwined in a creative arrangement," said Missouri Smyth, AYC musical director. "These pieces include 'The Runaway Spoon,' based on the nursery rhyme 'Hey Diddle Diddle,' 'London Bridge,' 'Old Mother Hubbard,' 'She Shall Have Music' and 'Fairest Lady.'"

The concert will also feature the string group Ursa Major, directed by Xia Guohua.

In addition to paying tribute to mothers, "Because We Sing" also is dedicated to the memory of Grace Akiyama for the support that she and her family provided to the choir.

"Dr. Akiyama and Grace loved children, and were very involved in activities for children," Smyth said. "In the early part of our organization, the Akiyamas put together a scholarship fund for children who wanted to participate in the choir, but needed financial support.

Through the Akiyama Family Fund, a part of the Juneau Community Foundation, they also provided the choir with a large endowment.

"It is wonderful to be able to honor a woman like Grace who had such a strong interest in Alaska's youth and their development in the musical arts."

Since its inception 11 years ago, the Alaska Youth Choir has encouraged many youngsters to pursue their interest in singing.

"The Alaska Youth Choir was started by Rob Norman, who was a music teacher at Gastineau Elementary School," Smyth said.

"He wanted to provide an activity where kids had a more focused opportunity to sing."

Children audition for the choir in May and August, and practice every week for 1-1/2 hours. Some students are chosen for the concert choir, which this year will travel to Italy in July for the Tuscany International Children's Chorus Festival.

"Twenty choristers are going to the event, which takes place from July 1-13," Smyth said. "They will be performing in Tuscany, Milan and Florence, and will participate in a special mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome."

Before heading off to Italy, AYC will be hosting a summer music camp in June for members that will emphasize the development of voice and an appreciation of music of the world. They will also be hosting the Chautauqua Children's Chorale from New York in July as well as members of the Alaska Choral Cruise, who will be traveling through the Inside Passage that same month.

"The cruise is made up of adult's and children's choirs, and they will performing a concert here in Juneau on the evening of July 17," Smyth said.

In the meantime, the choir will continue to rehearse for the Mother's Day concert, which they hope will attract many moms.

"It's a really great opportunity to come hear the children sing and to support a program that develops the joy of singing and a love of music in young people," Smyth said.

"It's also a great opportunity for children to bring their mothers to a concert."

"Because We Sing-A Tribute to Mothers" will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for families and $8 for individuals and can be found at Hearthside Books.

For more information on the Alaska Youth Choir, go online to