The Phoenix Girls Chorus is spreading holiday cheer this season with their own rendition of “A Merry English Christmas.”
The chorus, formed in 1981, has since grown to be a community staple, focusing on education and empowerment through the language of music.
The Phoenix Girls Chorus performs “A Merry English Christmas” at Camelback Bible Church on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and at Valley Presbyterian Church on Dec. 9 at 4 p.m.
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear from and about the phoenix girls chorus. There you have the phoenix girl’s chorus, a local institution; the chorus will be performing "a merry English Christmas" this holiday season. The girl’s chorus has been training young women in music skills and the development of poise, self-esteem and leadership skills since 1981. Joining us now is the artistic director of the phoenix girl’s chorus, Danya Tiller. Welcome back to "Arizona Horizon." good to see you.
Danya Tiller: Good to see you again too.
Ted Simons: Christmas season is special for choirs.
Danya Tiller: Absolutely. There is so much great music out there this time of year.
Ted Simons: The Phoenix girl’s chorus started in 1981. How many do you have?
Danya Tiller: Five. We have second grade through high school. This group is comprised of high school girls.
Ted Simons: To audition, that must be nerve wracking.
Danya Tiller: We try to make it less scary as much as we can. We ask the girls to bring something they are prepared to sing. If they are older, they can bring an art song to audition with.
Ted Simons: How many start as a seven-year-old and stick with it through to high school?
Danya Tiller: It's rare, but we have had girls, 11, 12 years in the program. Every year we have a few of those.
Ted Simons: We have five separate choirs, you say. How many in each choir?
Danya Tiller: We have a total of 125 in the program. The different choirs have different levels. the youngest, 12-15. Level two, 25. Level three is a bigger one. We are close to 40 that level. Level four has 25. Top level has 40 right now.
Ted Simons: How often -- the young ladies singing here, how often do they practice?
Danya Tiller: Once a week. They cram a lot into that time. This choir rehearses Mondays. We go over two hours. We plug at it until we are prepared. They are great working at home on their own.
Ted Simons: A lot of homework, I imagine. Lots of holiday songs and those sorts of things. In general, what type of music?
Danya Tiller: We focus on classical technique. We sing folk songs, songs in other languages. Pop music with choreography.
Ted Simons: A huge range throughout the year. Foreign language songs. That helps, does it?
Danya Tiller: It helps develop another side of the brain.
Ted Simons: Broadway tunes?
Danya Tiller: Absolutely. We have our pop concert this year, we call it girl power. all of the songs uplift the female.
Ted Simons: Talk to us about the chorus and what it does in terms of developing young people?
Danya Tiller: I didn't have an opportunity like this when I was younger. The girls come from across the valley, meet people they wouldn't have otherwise and form lasting relationships. What we do through travel, community service, we teach them to develop leadership skills and community skills and giving to one another. That's really important. We feel that music is just a vehicle to create better human beings for our universe right now. One of the things we do when we travel, we sing everywhere. It's great to see the reaction of people when you start singing on the street.
Ted Simons: Poise, self-esteem, leadership and good-old fashioned friendship, yes.
Danya Tiller: And team work. It's just like any other instrument. If you take away a few of the notes, you are missing something. We need every member of our team to be who we are.
Ted Simons: You don't want to forget about the performance skills. They are folks finding their voice.
Danya Tiller: By the time they graduate from this program, they should be at college level music theory and sight singing well enough to get into any college.
Ted Simons: Your choirs have sung around the world?
Danya Tiller: A couple of years ago in Spain, gaudy's cathedral. We have sung at the Vatican. We have sung in Notre Dame, and this coming summer, we are competing in whales at an international competition.
Ted Simons: I know you won a biggie not long ago.
Danya Tiller: A few years back we won in Austria. We haven't done one since, so we are gearing up to get ready for this one.
Ted Simons: The international travel is an experience of itself.
Danya Tiller: It's huge. To immerse yourself in someone else's culture, sing from other countries, and learn about their styles of singing, it's invaluable.
Ted Simons: Have you had students in the program years ago, do they come back to say hi?
Danya Tiller: They do. Every once in a while, an alumni will say I'm teaching piano in the area if you have students that want to take piano lessons. We have staff members as well.
Ted Simons: We had a merry English Christmas coming up.
Danya Tiller: I was inspired by the idea of British cathedral music and Dickon’s Carolers. All of the music is from England. The first part is dancing day. It's a multi-movement work by a British composer. It's ancient text but modern setting.
Ted Simons: The music is very good.
Danya Tiller: And familiar. A lot of Carols are English Carols. The girls will be at the camel Baptist church. Once again, let's hear from the Phoenix girls chorus.