Music from all over the world has been spilling out of churches and meeting houses all over Vermont this summer. It’s coming from a group of teen-agers who call themselves Village Harmony, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year .
One blistering hot day in the Unitarian Church on Main Street, the two dozen choristers rehearsing this song from Bulgaria are wearing shorts and tank tops. But if you close your eyes, you can imagine them in colorful garb from Eastern Europe, South Africa, or the plain muslin of colonial America.
Village Harmony co-director Patty Cuyler says teaching teen-agers songs from other cultures builds empathy, as well as vocal skills.
“When you try to respect that tradition in such a way that it’s not just singing the notes and trying to pronounce the words right, and getting into the other culture’s music shoes,” Cuyler said.
Village Harmony has been introducing musical teen-agers to other cultures for 25 years.
It was started in 1998 by Larry Gordon with a small ensemble of high school singers from Vermont. Since then it’s added a wide range of performances and residencies throughout the United States and abroad.
Fourteen year old Willy Clemetson, from Maine, says he’s become multi-lingual—at least on stage.
“I’ve learned African and Bulgarian and Georgian and Sardinian and Corsican and we actually learned some Israeli songs and Spanish, French—everything—a lot of songs,” Clemetson said.
For seventeen-year-old Nell Sather from Montpelier, Village Harmony has meant replacing the American music in her Ipod with more ethnic sounds.
“And I’ve been opened up to this whole new world of music that’s, like, incredible, and awesome time signatures and it’s really diversified my music tastes,” Sather said.
Village Harmony will perform at several other Vermont venues on their New England circuit this summer.