Willows Singers Leave Their Mark in San Francisco

Article excerpt

Byline: Bruce Pecho

So what was it really like taking 16 girls across the nation for a one-week singing tour in San Francisco?

In May, we met Karen Wilberg, director of Choral Activities and Performing Arts chair at The Willows Academy in Des Plaines, who was preparing to accompany the Willows Academy Chamber Singers on the tour around the City by the Bay.

The Willows Academy Chamber Singers is the premier performing singing group of The Willows Academy in Des Plaines, with students admitted only by audition. When we last spoke, Wilberg was gearing up to bring the girls to perform their sterling a cappella music to various sites in the San Francisco area. They're back and the beauty of the scenery was matched by the lush strains of their vocal performances.

"I could not have been happier with the behavior and dedication of the girls on this trip," Wilberg said. "They were really wonderful."

The girls, sometimes clad in elegant Renaissance outfits, performed at several locations around San Francisco.

"Our first performance was at St. Helena Montessori School, in the wine country," Wilberg said. "The audience was very appreciative and both sets of kids (ours and theirs) had a great time. The kids at the school were all elementary school age. They were wonderfully receptive and it was great to see that kids so young appreciate classical music."

Wilberg and the girls received a pleasant surprise the next day, when in addition to touring the Culinary Institute of America and the Beringer Winery they were also given a private tour of Opus One, the prestigious winery jointly owned by Robert Mondavi and Baroness Philippine de Rothschild during this, its 20th anniversary.

"I guess that very few people are allowed in and the wine people up there were jealous," Wilberg said. "We really lucked out. The kids loved the experience. So did the adults."

The Chamber Singers did more than just entertain young people. Far from it.

"We also sang at St. Anne's Home in San Francisco," Wilberg said. "The two oldest audience members were each over 100 years old! The girls enjoyed performing for and meeting people on the other end of the age spectrum."

The Willow Academy Chamber Singers also had time to do some sight-seeing between performances, with stops at the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sonoma Mission, Ghiradelli Square and exploring the rocky areas along the Monterrey/Carmel coast. …