DENHAM SPRINGS — More than 100 people — young and old — turned out Saturday for the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir reunion.
“The main reason for the celebration is that this was the Livingston Parish Children’s Choirs 20th year of its existence,” said event coordinator Kathy Harris.
Saturday’s event was also the 50th anniversary of the boys choir, which Regina Walker started in 1961, Harris said.
The boys choir, along with the alumni choir and three children’s choirs — with youth ranging from kindergarten through 12th grades — performed at 3 p.m. Saturday to honor Walker.
Kaitlyn Harris, 12, was busy preparing early Saturday for her stint on stage. The youth has been a member of the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir for about seven years, she said.
“Next year, I’m trying out for Chorale,” she said. The Chorale is the only Livingston Parish Children’s Choir that requires an audition to join.
“It’s fun,” Kaitlyn said of the experience.
For Kaitlyn being a part of the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir is also a family tradition. Her grandfather, John Benton, was a member of the original boy’s choir.
Her uncles Michael Benton, Will Benton and Joe Benton Jr. were also members of the choir when they were young, said Kaitlyn’s mom Kathy Harris.
Harris, who was not in the children’s choir as a youth, got a late start on her singing career and joined the adult choir in 2001. She then spent the next three years singing with the group.
Also in the choirs are Kaitlyn’s brothers, William Harris, 10; Jackson Harris, 8; and Reese Harris, 6.
So far Kaitlyn is just happy that she “made it this far.”
“I do want to do musicals, and I love acting and I love singing,” she said.
The choir was so instrumental on her, Harris said, that she decided to study music at LSU.
The celebration, Harris said, was important for her “to do it up right.”
“I spearheaded the event and then it just ballooned from there,” Harris said.
“This is legitimate music education for people who would otherwise not have it,” Harris said. “The student who studies music becomes a better math and science student because of the way you engage your brain.”
The choirs, Harris said, also teach youth to sing in tune, harmony and how to read music.
Rachel Chandler, 22, also came back for the reunion to celebrate music and Walker’s retirement, she said.
Chandler joined the chorus and then the chorale from 2002-2006, she said.
“I received a flyer at school about the summer music camp and from then on, I joined,” Chandler said.
Chandler was one of several members who traveled to Walt Disney World in Orlando to sing with the group.
“It was awesome,” Chandler recalled of the experience.
“My experience with the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir has helped me learn a good appreciation for music,” she said.
Today, Chandler said she helps with the music program at Amite Baptist Church, and passes along many of the things she learned from being a part the choir.
“Especially with the little ones trying to hit those high notes,” Chandler said.
“I think it’s great to see who was in the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir and who was in the boy’s choir with Mrs. Regina,” she said. “I wish we could do this every year.”
For Walker, the reunion was bittersweet. Walker said she has had to give up helping teach youth how to sing because of hearing problems.
“I think what I’ll miss most is the music part but my ears are so bad,” said Walker, who is now 81.
“I really, really enjoy working with the choirs,” she said. “I’m going to miss it.”
Walker said she enjoyed seeing her former students Saturday as they sang songs and talked about old times, including trips to England and Austria.
“We’ve been all over the place,” Walker said.
As Denham Springs Mayor Jimmy Durbin waited for the 3 p.m. concert to begin, he talked fondly of Walker.
“The most memorizing thing for me is to be here for Regina Walker, and celebrate her career and what she has meant to music education in Denham Springs,” Durbin said.
“We’re very fortunate to have her leadership,” Durbin continued. “I love her, and love being here for this.
“This organization is nationally known in the United States and worldwide,” he said. “We look at this organization as No. 1 or No. 2 in Louisiana and all over Southeast Louisiana.”
While Walker insisted that her hearing has prevented her from continuing to lead the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir, one thing is certain, Walker said.
“We teach children how to breathe, good vowels and focus,” she said.
“These kids learn music.”
As for parent Debbie Vivien, who credits her daughter — Whitney Campbell’s — recent acceptance into New Orleans Center for Creative Arts — to what she learned at the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir, the choir teaches confidence and success.
In addition to the choir performances, Saturday’s activities featured several booths, where vendors sold everything from candles and framed LSU photographs to snow balls and peanuts.
For more information on the Livingston Parish Children’s Choir, log on to http://lpccsing.org.