Welcome to Joyful Noise!
Joyful Noise is a chorus of forty-five adults, ages 17–70, with physical and neurological challenges and acquired brain injuries. Founded in 2000 by Director Allison Fromm and her sister, chorus member Beth Fromm, the ensemble is hosted by Bancroft, in southern New Jersey and Delaware. Joyful Noise fosters an atmosphere of community, acceptance, and teamwork in which members can discover their voices and express themselves through music. As one singer explains, “It makes me feel famous and proud!” Another reveals, "It's my life’s dream to be an entertainer forever.... and my dream came true!” The chorus serves as a model and a resource for similar ensembles that seek to develop in their members a sense of pride, confidence, and the potential to contribute to our world.
By Andrew Clark and Mike Pfitzer*
Following Joyful Noise’s moving July 4th performance honoring Bernie King, the ensemble was invited for a weekend residency at Harvard!
On Thursday, April 10, Joyful Noise’s very excited singers will board a bus for Harvard. Once they arrive in Cambridge, they will rehearse with renowned American conductor, composer, and educator, Alice Parker. Joyful Noise will perform alongside the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum and The Brattle Street Chamber Players in Harvard’s prestigious Sanders Theatre on Friday, April 11 at 8 PM. They will also play a major role in a Saturday symposium on music in community.
The Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, Harvard’s premier mixed choir, is thrilled to welcome Joyful Noise to Cambridge for what we know will be a transformational weekend of choral music for us!
Joyful Noise is the perfect group to help lead our symposium on singing in community and on music and wellness. We look forward to having Alice Parker and Joyful Noise lead audience members in singing, imagining, movement, and expression. April 12 will be a meaningful day filled with singers’ thoughts on the songs we sing, being a part of Joyful Noise, singing with friends, and meeting new people.
Harvard students will learn a great deal from the character, poise, and spirit of this remarkable ensemble, and we hope that through the exchange of our musical experiences, the Collegium and our local community will grow through collaborative learning with Joyful Noise.
We anticipate that Joyful Noise’s trip to Massachusetts in April, combined with Collegium’s trip to visit Joyful Noise in South Jersey in February, will inspire new projects and partnerships for the choral program at Harvard.
* Andrew Clark is director of choral activites at Harvard University, and Mike Pfitzer is choral associate.
By Marguerite Brooks
During Joyful Noise’s ACDA presentation in Providence, I held the microphone for a singer named Kevin. As Kevin began to sing, my first thought was, “He has an amazing voice!” And then, “Wow! He’s really performing!” But what moved me most was that Kevin was singing totally from his heart. His poignant solo lifted everyone in the room to their feet. When Joyful Noise’s singers perform at our Yale International Choral Festival in June, I expect the international audience to be similarly moved by their singing.
At Yale, Joyful Noise will be performing on the same stage and meeting singers from South Africa and China. In a way, this community of people with different abilities is like a foreign culture to some of us – just as much as a choir from China. This culture is not something we know enough about, and we need to know more about our fellow human beings.
Our festival’s focus is “Choirs Transforming Our World.” Joyful Noise is doing just that. By putting into action the philosophy that music is open to everyone, Joyful Noise is changing lives around the world. In June conductors from four continents will witness what Joyful Noise accomplishes with singers of different abilities and may consider providing access to this kind of experience in their own countries.
Yale is one of the world’s most prestigious universities, yet many of our buildings are not wheelchair accessible. Often no one thinks this is a necessity. Joyful Noise demonstrates how much people with disabilities can achieve, and that they, too, deserve access to our halls of learning.
Allison Fromm, Joyful Noise’s conductor, teaches her singers real musical skills. We in the choral field admire her high expectations, which are tempered by patience and love. Her singers listen to each other with respect, help each other, and radiate self-confidence. Their pride in their singing is visible and audible. It permeates everything! Audiences are surprised, moved, and clearly transformed by Joyful Noise’s singing. We hear the quality of the silence in the room change from modest expectations to respect, gratitude, and awe.
At Yale we believe that singing in a chorus can transform everyone. Everybody can sing and should be allowed – no, encouraged – to sing. Joyful Noise spurs the rest of us to stretch beyond our own comfort level and embrace a larger humanity.
Marguerite Brooks has led Yale University’s graduate program in choral conducting since 1985. Conductor of the Yale Camerata and Yale Pro Musica and an active choral clinician, Ms. Brooks assisted Joyful Noise in ACDA conference performances in both Chicago and Providence.
By Laura Knox, Joyful Noise Guest Musician
Joyful Noise members have always loved singing with all their hearts, but now their vivacity for song is spreading throughout the United States! In 2008 the singers adopted a “Mission to Inspire.” Their March 2011 performance for the American Choral Directors Association’s National Conference in Chicago prompted several conductors in the audience to begin planning choruses for singers with disabilities. Some of these ensembles are already rehearsing and giving concerts. A ChoralNet online “community” provides a forum for these new choruses to share ideas and inspire others. ACDA’s Eastern Division invited Joyful Noise to form the core of a Festival Choir for singers with disabilities at its 2012 conference.
Northern Illinois choral director Steven Szalaj, who launched Encore! Joyful Noise in October 2011, reflected, “I was deeply touched by your session in Chicago, which demonstrated why we love choral music. It is, first and foremost a human art; that is - WE are the music. I’m sure it required quite an effort to make the trip to Chicago. Please know that your presence was worth every bit of energy that it took! Your performance also provided inspiration to begin an ensemble here in Crystal Lake. Folks here need a joyful noise!”
Verallen Kleihenz of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was similarly inspired by Joyful Noise’s singing: “At the 2011 National ACDA Conference, the Joyful Noise chorus touched my heart in a way that no other performance during the conference had. I thought back to my own situation and my special needs son, who loves to sing but is not able to participate in a conventional choir. Watching this choir gave me hope for my son and others like him. With the help of two good friends, I started Expressions of Joy in June.” In its first nine months, this new chorus has already given eight performances.
In April, conductor Don Martin wrote, “More than a year later I am still feeling the sensation of joy, love and gratitude that I received while experiencing the Joyful Noise Chorus at the ACDA convention in Chicago. That day, as I was enjoying my tears, I knew what I had to do: to offer folks here in Decatur [IL] the opportunity to sing together in a chorus. Our team would like to make a trip to NJ to see you and your singers, and gain some insights into how you have made things work.”
Joyful Noise members truly love to sing, perform and share from their hearts. Their love of music is reaching across the nation, so that other adults with disabilities will have the chance to sing and share in the joy that comes from being a part of a performing ensemble.
By Mariann Granrath, Joyful Noise Parent
On February 17th, after six hours’ travel by car, bus or train, 32 exuberant Joyful Noise members arrived in Providence, Rhode Island to rehearse and perform at the American Choral Directors Association’s 2012 Eastern Conference. Their positive energy was contagious! As the core of the groundbreaking ACDA Festival Choir for singers with disabilities, Joyful Noise was joined by singers, choral conductors, and music therapists from New England, as well as by their beloved composers and guest conductors, Alice Parker and Nick Page.
Conductor Nick Page praised the singers for connecting so beautifully with their audience, “That was the longest ovation I have heard at an ACDA convention...the singers were brilliant.” Jeffrey Douma, director of Yale University Glee Club, remarked, “I thought the group’s performance in Providence was beautiful, uplifting, and inspiring. I was especially taken with the gentleman who sang ‘Unchained Melody.’” Kevin, whose solo moved many in the audience to tears and elicited the first standing ovation, commented, “This was a new experience. My favorite part was singing ‘Unchained Melody.’ I was scared at first when Nick Page started playing the chords. Leslie recommended that we dedicate a song to George. And Kenny’s conducting was like Beethoven’s!!!”
Joyful Noise member Alex Siegel recalled, “I felt very good about myself up on the stage. I felt confident; I was comfortable. I had a great experience. My favorite part was the singing: it was a magical moment. I went up there and conquered my fear.” As their performance concluded, the singers received a second long, cheering and standing ovation. One teacher in the audience told me, through tears, that she wished she could get a video and show it to her students at home. Bancroft staffer Joanne Shea mused, “it was a FABULOUS concert. Maybe not musically perfect, but more tear jerking perfect!” This adventurous, musical excursion changed the lives of many who were a part of it: both singers and listeners. Thanks to all who made this fabulous trip possible!
By Cathy Sonnenberg, Joyful Noise Associate Director
On a sunny Saturday afternoon in March, 20 Joyful Noise members arrived at Trenton’s Sun Center, full of anticipation. Thrilled to be singing the National Anthem at a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game, singers were escorted past the Globetrotters players’ practice session into a locker room where they, too, warmed up for their performance on the court. Singer Todd Emmons glowed, “It was a dream to shake hands with some of the basketball players!”
When Joyful Noise began to sing, a hush came over the arena. The crowd stood in awe, waiting for the anthem to reach its final note, and erupted in cheers. Sathya Prabhakar proudly reminisced, “The singing was good....that made my day!” The choir then took seats in the stands to watch the game together. Singer Lisa Fay laughed, “The Harlem Globetrotters were SO funny! It was awesome singing the national anthem for them!” Elene Kurtzman, mother of Jodi, reflected, “The benefit to each singer in both achievement and enjoyment was evident and heartwarming. The focus was on their abilities, not their disabilities.” Participants and audience members alike will remember this event for years to come.