The hum of the Singing Bridge as you cross the Kentucky River may not be the only music you hear on any given Thursday evening. That’s because on the second floor of First Baptist Church (located near the bridge), the young members who make up the Frankfort Children Singers (FCS) rehearse every Thursday from September to May under the direction of Linda McKinley. The former elementary music teacher started the group for second through eighth grade children 15 years ago.
“We want the children to enjoy singing and know enough about music to take it with them to the next level,” McKinley explains. The process of learning a song is very important. Watching the children as they finally ‘get it’ and their faces as they have that ‘aha’ moment is my greatest joy and reward!”
The entire chorus is comprised of about 40 youth separated into two groups, according to McKinley. The Prelude Singers are second and third graders and the Concert Singers, fourth through eighth graders. FCS performs throughout the year at local and area events. There are auditions to join the group. “We have auditions but no child is turned away,” McKinley explains. “If a child needs help vocally, we always are happy to help them find their singing voice.
Singing through the holidays
This holiday season the Frankfort Children Singers will sing at First Presbyterian Church during The Candlelight Tradition and in December the group will perform its annual Christmas concert at First Baptist Church. The dates and times are yet to be determined. Concert-goers will be treated to a repertoire of holiday music including “Angels in the Snow,” the “Gloria Fanfare” and “Deck the Halls” among other selections.
A new high school girls ensemble will make its debut at the Christmas concert. After some of the girls “aged out” of the FCS group, they asked McKinley to start something for older youth. “Most of the girls were in FCS,” McKinley says, “but we’re not limited to FCS alums.
McKinley says she has the help of a talented assistant director Beth Keith. “Beth came to Frankfort in 2016 to pursue a career with the YMCA as an aquatics director. FCS is fortunate to have her with us. We also have a fantastic accompanist, Hollis Rosenstein. She is an accomplished musician and is also one of the co-founders of the Bluegrass Theatre Guild.”
A common note— a love of singing
No matter the age, the members of FCS all seem to have a common thread— they love to sing and want to learn more about the art.
Carmen Amato, whose daughter Anna is in her fourth year with FCS, says that Anna has learned and grown so much during her time in the group. “She learns about musicianship, the correct way to sing and she has been exposed to a variety of good music, both classic and contemporary.”
“She has had fun singing in an ensemble and realizing how powerful and beautiful a group can make a song when they attend to harmony and dynamics. Their concerts are wonderful. She has met kids who don’t attend her school or church because it’s a community-wide group. Her involvement in FCS led her to also get involved with Bluegrass Theatre Guild. So, I’m pleased that we have these groups that allow her to explore her interest in music and theater.”
Anna Amato, an eighth grader at Good Shepherd who played Belle in the recent local Bluegrass Theatre Guild musical “Beauty and the Beast,” says that she enjoys FCS because she simply loves to sing. “I’d tell anyone who likes to sing to try it (FCS) out,” Anna says, “because even if you don’t have a friend go with you, you’ll definitely make new friends and learn so much from Mrs. McKinley!”
Ellen Crumbaugh, a Bondurant Middle School sixth grader, has been in FCS since third grade. She sings first soprano part in the group and says she has learned how to read music in FCS. “I like how we get to go on school tours at the end of the year and we get to sing during the Candlelight Tour,” she says.
Sitting outside the rehearsal room, parents listen to their second and third graders singing, the songs starting and stopping as Ms. McKinley directs, teaching along the way. The mothers of two third grade friends, both named Bella, wait for the girls to finish practice. Moms Christy Franklin and Mahala Sparrow say that their Bellas have always loved to sing.
Steve Puckett also has a third grader, Avyn, at the rehearsal. He believes that Avyn’s love of singing stems from her grandfather who has always encouraged singing with his grandchildren, taught music and been involved in the music program at First Christian Church.
Learning from a master
McKinley, who actually taught some of the parents of her FCS members at Collins Lane Elementary, clearly enjoys working with the children, which is appreciated.
“Mrs. McKinley is just so generous with her time and talent. It’s just neat when someone has a love of something beautiful, like music, and they share that love with others, especially kids,” Carmen says. “Linda knows how a song is supposed to sound and she works and works with the kids until they know what it’s supposed to sound like too — because they hear themselves sounding that way. That gives them a great sense of pride. I’ve always said that Linda is one of those people that gets more out of kids than they realize they have in them.”
Ellen Crumbaugh’s grandmother, Fran Crumbaugh, says that this has been a wonderful experience for her granddaughter. “Ellen is really interested in singing and theater and this is a great way for her to explore what she loves. And we just can’t say enough about Ms. McKinley,” Fran remarks. “She gives so much time to this group — it is a real service to the community.”
The Frankfort Children Singers is a winning combination for both the children and their director. The youth benefit from the expertise of a wonderful teacher and director and McKinley enjoys working with the children to encourage a lifelong love of music.
McKinley comments, “I tell the children that Thursday is my favorite time of the week because it is rehearsal night. I love doing this. I love being with the children and instilling a love in them for music. My bottom line is that they have an enjoyment of singing because that lasts forever and ever.”