We were honored to have been asked to kick off Denver’s Colorado Remembers 9/11 commemorative concert with the singing of our National Anthem. It was a truly remarkable day that won’t soon be forgotten by staff and young performers alike. There were so many connections to alumni, friends and the community, not to mention the amazing program, that we were right at home and thrilled to be at Civic Center Park. The event, mainly sponsored by The Cell and The Denver Post, was extremely well organized and executed, right down to the challenging details of dropping off and picking up National Tour Choir members in the center of downtown, when road closures and unbelievable security measures were the order of the day.
With memos on every dashboard, parents negotiated their way through the road-blocks and we had most everyone assembled on the corner of 14th Ave. and Bannock in a timely fashion – with only a few u-turns required by the bevy of very friendly policeman watching over us. We couldn’t go straight across the performance area to our warm-up room in the McNichols Building, as we had not yet been given our coveted “All-Access” passes, so we made our way around the back of the grassy seating area to the north door of the building where officials were anxiously awaiting our arrival, passes in hand. All along the way, we were greeted with excitement from alumni and their parents to current parents and members to Joe Public, all thrilled that we were there to open the concert.
When we arrived at our warm-up space, a gentlemen came in through a back door with an oh-so-familiar look on his face, that look we see so often as we are out and about anywhere in the world. An alum…surely one of us remembers him…surely we can remember his name…YES! It’s Eric Satre, who is in charge of sound for the event, and wanted to say hello…and let us know HE WAS IN CHARGE OF SOUND FOR THE EVENT!! Those Chorale alums; they are surely going to take over the world someday! We knew we were in good hands, with no sound check, but Eric at the controls.
We quickly rearranged ourselves into a 3-row order, as by now we knew there was even less space on stage than anticipated. Warm-up (thank you Ms. Burke!), bathrooms, reminders about what to expect when singing into a bank of microphones, and then time for some reflections on why we were here, and the meaning of this event for our community. These kids were babies and toddlers in 2001. They have lived their entire remembered lives in a post-9/11 world. Taking off your shoes to go through airport security? School and church doors always locked? Concrete barriers and police with rifles surrounding any big community event? This is the norm in their world. The term “9/11,” which means so much to any adult, is but a vague, but commonly heard, reference for them. Out of the 37 assembled in front of me, only one has a school history book that includes a reference to 9/11, and these past few weeks have brought their first real discussions of this life-changing event.
Assuming all of the above, and without going into details best left to parents, we wanted to make sure these amazing young citizens understood the significance of this particular National Anthem — a bit different than singing the anthem for a sports event! We shared some individual remembrances of 9/11, explaining it was one of those times in our lives, both good and bad, when we remembered exactly where we were when we first heard about it. Several of the kids had personal connections to the tragedy, and they shared those. Mostly we talked about what an honor it was to be such an important part of this day. And, as always, they are the most thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive young people I know. I truly believe they “get it”; they know they play an important role in this community and they play it well, making all of us so proud.
As we headed to the stage, we were greeted by all of the leaders in our community. Governor Hickenlooper and Mayor Hancock, both of whom included the Children’s Chorale in their inauguration ceremonies, said hello as they walked by. Congresswoman Diana DeGette, whose daughter Frannie was in the Chorale, greeted us. Our musical colleagues from the Colorado Symphony wished us good luck. As we finished the anthem, an F-16 flyover led by Prep Choir parent Timothy Conklin, added the appropriate drama to our final chords. Our only regret? Alas, no Beach Boys yet in sight!