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Hudson Valley Press

May 9th, 2012

Voices of Hope stages Afternoon Tea Party

Voices of Hope Children’s Choir stands with its new Musical Director, Dovetta Beamon, and Sue Zahn, an Accompanist for the non-profit group in the City of Newburgh, NY.
Newburgh - All it took was one glance to see how it’s all been worth it.

That look was treated to seven smiling youngsters, clad in pressed tan chinos and pastel hued polo shirts, moving and grooving, as they confidently filled St. George’s Episcopal Church with vocal delights on Sunday, April 29, 2012. Make no mistake about it. Voices of Hope has resurfaced; this time stronger than ever. An outreach mission of St. George’s Church, the non-profit group, composed of youth, ages 5-12, was initially formed four years ago. At that time, Deborah Dresser, former Pastor of the Church, wrote a grant, securing monies for a Director to lead a music program aimed at fostering the love for music amongst children. Soon after, Voices of Hope was born in 2009. Performing at an array of functions, including ones for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh, the small group of a few Newburgh students began to take shape. Despite the year of success, financial obstacles, along with the departure of its Director, Barbara Vultaggio-Montoya, resulted in the groups’ closure during the 2010-2011 school year.

However, the need for a community youth singing outlet remained.

“Unfortunately, there have been music cuts in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District, so kids have not been exposed to music as much as they should,” explained Lana Williams-Scott, Program Director of Voices of Hope. “Voices of Hope was Dresser’s vision to have the chance to focus more in depth on music appreciation and self expression.”

Thankfully, that opportunity was once again afforded in August, 2011 when Father Peter Sipple, along with the Warden of the Church, Deirdre Glenn, approached Williams-Scott. The two had secured a new Director, Dovetta Beamon, a retired Enlarged City of Newburgh Music Teacher as well as accomplished vocalist.

Beamon was eager to lead her young charges, returning the groups’ status to its former level. Now, eight months later, she has done just that and more. Although Voices of Hope was primarily designed for Newburgh students, the present group of ten also includes ones from the Marlboro School District, as the dire need for the arts is not limited to the Newburgh Schools. Membership to the children’s choir is open to all who attend schools in the Hudson Valley. Practice is once a week, Monday night from 5:30 -6:30 at St. George’s.

The revamped group, which has already performed in several successful fundraisers at St. George’s as well as Calvary Presbyterian, is accompanied by another Newburgh teacher with a passion for music, Sue Zahn. Both could be spotted guiding the group Sunday, as the Voices of Hope performed three numbers: the kickoff, “On with the Show,” “Hands United” and the closing “I am His Child,” a room full of attentive guests listened in as they sipped tea and coffee and munched on an assortment of appetizers and desserts on linen-lined tables adorned with colorful floral arrangements. The sunny skies outside added to the festive spirit, marking the advent of spring and hope.

Amongst the crowd was Glenn.

“This group is such an important part of the community,” said a smiling Glenn as she listened in. “It was formed with the idea of keeping alive sacred music, while developing an appreciation for different ethnicities; it’s doing just that.”

Sunday’s music was not limited to the Voices of Hope vocal talents. Elementary school children Chelsea Pryce entertained on the viola and Zachary Chester on piano (both members of Voices of Hope), while another youth, teenager Brianna Spencer performed a Praise Dance. Meanwhile, adult musicians contributed to the days’ music celebration. Noris Chester dazzled on the drums, Rosie Rion lent her cellist expertise and Beamon, joined by Sipple, provided a moving vocal duet.

“We are here today as a result of the leadership that has been provided by so many,” said Sipple, as he provided the greeting. “The great amount of continued support has allowed us to put this event together and make it happen.”

That support has further been fueled by St. George’s new Reverend, Dustin Trowbridge, who initiated his duties on March 18, 2012, and like so many in his congregation, is continuing to carry out Dresser’s music vision.

“This is a great start for our first Annual Afternoon Tea Party, especially considering we planned it in just a month,” said Williams-Scott. “We are very happy with the money we raised as well as the exposure the kids got; it was a great way to introduce the kids to the community.”

Voices of Hope, whose next performance is Saturday, May 12, at 2:15 for a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh Home Dedication on Liberty Street, is looking to expand its enrollment, spreading the joys and potency of music to as many of our youth as possible. For more information on how you can open your child’s eyes to the wonders of music, call (845) 249-8343.
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