Bel Canto: Pasadena’s LA Children’s Chorus Warms Up for ‘Beautiful Singing’ 2021

Popular education program hopes to train the next generation of bel canto opera singers
By CYNTHIA YANG, Weekendr Staff Writer
Published on Feb 3, 2021

Pandemic, thy watchword is innovation.

The Pasadena-based Los Angeles Children’s Chorus is warming up for the return of First Experiences in Singing (FES), its music education program, for spring 2021.

LACC students will enjoy many opportunities to sing solos, play musical games adapted to Zoom, and use physical manipulatives to practice musical sight-reading and writing skills, all experienced in an online format, of course.

The goal of  First Experiences in Singing is to “expose young singers to core melodic and rhythmic musical exploration through high-quality folk song, using the bel canto vocal technique.” (It means “a lyrical style of operatic singing using a full, rich, broad tone and smooth phrasing,” or simply “beautiful singing.”), according to Chorus website.

As Anne Midgette, music critic for The Washington Post described it in a 2019 article, “Bel canto is supposed to be the quintessential way to sing opera. The style is associated with beautiful melodies, silvery voices and floods of rapid notes curling their way up and down the scale, sometimes only loosely around the framework of what the composer actually wrote.”

Bel canto is basic to most opera singing, and mastering the skill is what allows opera singers to be heard in a 3,000-seat theater without a microphone. There were singers long before there were microphones.

Midgette also writes that teachers often tell singers to “visualize a solid column of air, starting from your diaphragm (or lower) and extending up to your throat, atop which your voice is perched like a golden marble. With good breath support, a singer can spin out a long, long line of music — legato is the term for the flowing unbroken string of connected notes — and bel canto composers wrote long, long melodies for them to sing.”

The first LACC choir was founded in 1986 by Rebecca Thompson and Stephanie Mowery and was assembled to sing the children’s chorus part for Britten’s War Requiem.

The program now includes six progressively experienced choirs, a program of First Experiences in Singing (FES) classes for 6-7-year-old boys and girls, and a First Experiences in Choral Singing Ensemble for FES graduates and children who audition at the pre-Preparatory level.

The Chorus performs frequently with leading music ensembles including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Calder Quartet, Pasadena Symphony, and MUSE/IQUE. LACC also assists LA Opera by training and providing children for its opera productions requiring children’s chorus or child soloists.

LACC choristers have performed on tours to Africa, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Japan, Poland, and Sweden, as well as many parts of the United States.

The LACC FES spring semester will begin on Wednesday, March 3, featuring ten weeks of singing education. LACC will offer both the introductory FES I class, as well as FES II for students who have completed the Level I program.

Each course is $400. No audition is required for FES I or II. However, completion of Level I is a prerequisite for enrollment in Level II. The program serves 6 and 7 year-olds, and children who turned 8 after September 1, 2020.

More information about First Experiences in Singing is available at

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