Peter Boak, music director of the Island Community Chorus, now in its 21st season, is well known to Islanders who delight in the three concerts he and his singers perform annually. Lisa Varno, artistic director of the Martha’s Vineyard Children’s Chorus, is a newcomer to year-round living, though her family has deep Island roots. An experienced musician and music teacher, Varno moved here in June of 2015 and started the Children’s Chorus soon after. Together, she and Boak hope to champion the notion of choral singing as both joyful and artful, across generations. This year they are joining forces for the annual holiday concert at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown on December 3 and 4. Thirty children will join over 120 adults to bring a new kind of concert experience to Island audiences.

Why this collaboration? Why now?

Peter: Really the idea was Lisa’s. Because the children’s choir is new and needs exposure and performance practice, she asked if it would be possible to be part of the Community Chorus’ Concert, and I said absolutely! It’s something that’s great for the kids, and new for us, so it’s a win/win.

Is it the challenge of combining the groups that attracts you?

Peter: I think it would be more challenging if it were two groups of equal age. I think in this case one will feed off the other.
Lisa: It will be complementary, with the younger students looking up to the older and being encouraged by each other.

Why did you start a Children's Chorus on the Island?

Lisa: Because as a music teacher, when I arrived here, I was kind of amazed that there wasn’t a children’s community chorus. So I decided to start one. Some (elementary) schools had a chorus, some did not, so that when kids got to high school and wanted to join the high school chorus or Minnesingers, they had to play catch up.

Is it difficult to work with 

Lisa: Define difficult! I would say that working with children definitely has its own challenges just like working with adults. It’s difficult working with people, in general, but I appreciate challenge. I enjoy working with and learning from people as well as guiding them.

Now that you know the 
children, Lisa, what do you think will surprise the holiday concert audience?

Lisa: Their focus, their ability to sing with a tall, open sound rather than the mousey sound you often hear from childrens’ songs. Their ability to sing articulately; you can hear their words, even in French and Latin. I think that will astound people.

How would you describe how audiences will experience this concert?

Peter: People who have been following the Community Chorus know how our concerts are, so this is going to be a refreshing change, a breathe of fresh air.

I also think it’s going to be obvious that we have a new generation of singers coming up. And that, to me, is exciting.