If you’ve never witnessed the Chester Children’s Chorus in their full regalia, you better have a great excuse. I certainly had a lot of excuses to not check them out last night, but at the last moment I pulled it all together to get out to Swarthmore College primarily because chorus director John Alston told me not to miss this performance when we spoke at the MLK Day Celebration at Calvary Baptist church way back in January.

I’ve seen them on several occasions over the years. I have all their CDs that I know of. Yet, no matter the occasion, that chorus does a different magic every time out. I mentioned to John how the chorus reminds me of Chester High School basketball: the players change annually, but the formula is the same which creates a great result every year for us to enjoy.

The plight of youth has weighed heavily on my spirit these last couple months. We’ve endured a couple kids lost in a house fire; a suspected suicide due to alleged bullying; scuffling at the Biddy Basketball officer’s meeting; and a teen being sent away to rot in prison for as long as 80 years with no years included for mental or emotional support.

For those who work with our children, it can be demanding, draining, and thankless. Sometimes you have to step away to recharge and squeeze in some self-care before you find yourself self-medicating.

And then there’s the Chester Children’s Chorus. What a breath of fresh air. What a vision of excellence right before your eyes and ears. What an example of what can be accomplished when commitment trumps complacency.

This is their Carnegie Hall

I’m not skilled enough of a writer to describe the joy, pleasure, surprise, and emotions I went through sitting in the back of the auditorium absorbing the performance last evening. I’m willing to bet it has a different effect on each person.

I must shout out the 1-year-old boy sitting directly behind me with his mom. If they were in a Baptist church, the ushers would have quarantined them to the Sunday school room the way that kid was expressing himself. As loud as little dude was, I couldn’t get annoyed. Based on the timing of his outbursts, he was in perfect synch with the singers. When they got loud, he got loud. When they got soft, he was right there with them. Obviously, he was totally out of tune and couldn’t articulate a single word – which made it even more funny. I truly expect to see him in the Chester Children’s Chorus in 7 years.

John Alston, Founder and Executive & Artistic Director, stands among the chorus. He’s just as big a part of the performance as they are. 


I could write an entire post to review each song they performed. But, in the interest of time, I’ll narrow my comments down to my Top 3 favorites.

  1. ‘Alleluia’ – Randall Thompson.  It was so beautiful, I almost had to reach for the Kleenex I didn’t have.
  2. ‘Smooth & Spain’ – Carlos Santana/Chick Corea. I was the only person in my section signing along and didn’t care how silly I looked. John Alston showed off his genius with that arrangement.
  3. All the Aretha Franklin, James Brown stuff was amazing. The horn section was totally out of control. Putting a cape on that little kid doing the James Brown was special.


Thank you John Alston and the Chester Children Chorus for the therapy. You’ve helped restore my faith in young people and reminded me of the beauty of excellence.

One more performance at Swarthmore tonight. For some good video captured at last night’s performance, head over to Tobin L. Adams, Sr. on Facebook.