Noe Valley Voice September 1998

Kids' Picks: Be Part of a Singing Rainbow

By Dodie Hamblen

Do you have a kid in the house who loves to sing and perform? Maybe your child would like to join a chorus.

Well, now's the perfect time, says local music director and recording artist Candy Forest. There are two great children's singing groups starting their seasons in September, and your musical youngster is sure to fit the bill for one or the other.

First, there's the Singing Rainbow Youth Ensemble, a group Forest founded in 1987 that has racked up three award-winning albums. "The Rainbows sing and dance and perform, and all their musical numbers are staged," notes Forest.

But what really distinguishes this group is its socially-conscious repertoire. "These kids are heroes of the environment. They combine their love of music with their love of the earth and her creatures," says Forest. They sing about nature, ecology, and world peace. But they also do songs about self-esteem, and about how to get along with others at home or at school, she says.

Most of the Rainbow's music is original. "Nobody's going to hear the theme from Titanic when they come here!" laughs Forest.

Instead, they'll hear catchy lyrics like, "Put solar panels in your path/And I'll have sunshine in my bath," and "What we throw in the garbage can/Just gonna fill up the garbage land."

Other songs may move listeners to tears. "We're now doing an incredible song about peer pressure called 'Courage,' written by Bob Blue. It talks about a girl named Diane whom none of the kids at school wanted to associate with. She was pointedly not invited to a party. But when one of the popular girls learns about My Lai and the Holocaust through her classes, she decides to do what she can to see that this sort of thing doesn't happen again." In her world, that means having the courage to befriend Diane.

Right now the Singing Rainbow has a dozen members, but it is always open to auditioning more. "We take ages 7 to 15, although we've actually had some who stayed until they were 18," says Forest. "I never tell them it's time to leave. Many Rainbows come back to help out with productions. Performing gives them the sense of giving something back to their community, and their enthusiasm inspires the people they perform for."

The Singing Rainbow performs four concerts a year, and often donates the proceeds to environmental or animal welfare causes. Last year the kids gave their concert earnings to Redwing Horse Shelter in Carmel and to PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals). The members meet on Thursdays from 4 to 5:30 at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez St.

Those who are interested in a tryout should call Forest at 550-7752. She'll arrange for the prospective student to audit a class. The cost is $100 for 10 weeks (or $10 a class). A new 10-week session starts Sept. 10. (The Rainbow members also must buy the group's three recordings: All in This Together, Head First and Belly Down, and Speeney Spawney, Go to the Moon, a collection of lullabies. The tapes are available at Video Wave at Castro and 25th for $10 apiece.)

You can also borrow the music from the Noe Valley Library at 451 Jersey St. Or better yet, go see the Singing Rainbow perform as part of an open house at the Noe Valley Ministry on Saturday, Sept. 12. The Rainbow's concert starts at 1:45 p.m.

A Chorus for Everybody

If the Singing Rainbow sounds a little out of reach for your budding songster, there's another pot of gold awaiting a few blocks down the hill at Community Music Center (544 Capp St. between 20th and 21st streets).

It's the San Francisco Children's Chorus. For the past year and a half, Forest has directed this group, too. "This is a wonderful opportunity for kids who want to sing but who don't necessarily know how. There are no auditions, and you pay only a once-a-year $25 registration fee. Otherwise it's completely free."

The Chorus is open to children ages 8 to 12. It meets twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The group's repertoire has some crossover with the Singing Rainbow, says Forest, and runs the gamut from folk and classical to rock, country, pop, and Latin music.

The kids put on three concerts a year, "but in addition we do a lot of holiday performing, and sing at old folks homes and hospitals. There's even a joint concert with the Singing Rainbow in November."

To sign up for the Children's Chorus, call Community Music Center at 647-6015. "There are many Noe Valley kids in this group. Everybody has a great time."