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Passion for Music

Girls’ Choir of Wilmington
Caroling, Caroling • 12/16, 7 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church, 125 S. 3rd

GIRL POWER: Sandy Errante leads the Girls’ Choir of Wilmington in their annual holiday performance on Friday evening. Don’t miss this beautiful group of talent. Courtesy photo.

Watching sandy errante conduct the Girls’ Choir of Wilmington is like being on the inside of the most magical play between mother and child. Her arms, her face, her whole body moves to the notes and lyrics of the music, to bridge its power and intimate nuances to both choir and audience. Whether conducting her 85-strong choir at a peace rally (in “If I Had a Hammer,” Errante was Mary Travers incarnate) or at the most formal Christmas performance, Errante is unequivocally herself.

“Sometimes when I hear the girls sing the words or notes of the music, I sort of tear up, and they know that I’m melting and trying to keep myself together,” she says. “Or if I’m really happy, they know that, too. So there’s some kind of emotional connection, and I’m not really sure where that comes from. When I’m conducting, I’m 100 percent into communicating how I feel about the music to the girls and the audience, and I’m not really aware of anything else.”

One of the older choir girls, Maddison Sult, compliments her conductor as a “sweet woman with a big heart, lots of hope and a whole lot of patience. “The fact that she can turn 80 talkative, silly individuals into one voice is beyond my comprehension,” Sult continues. “She inspires me because of her dedication to better us. If we don’t get a song, she doesn’t give up but helps us through it until we get it right.”
Formed in 1997 by Errante, this “silly” group of girls has toured the Carolinas, Virginia and Washington D.C., including a powerful performance at the National Cathedral. Errante credits her husband, Steven, music professor at UNCW, who is also celebrating 25 years as a conductor of the Wilmington Symphony, with adding to the wonderful sound of the Girls’ Choir.

“Steve has faithfully played the piano for every music gig I’ve ever done,” Errante says. “The choir is lucky because a good accompanist can support it by adding a few flourishes here and there, making the performance the best it can be. Steve was my music theory teacher at the University of Richmond in Virginia, and I’ve been lucky to have him as my life-long accompanist.”

Each summer, the Errantes order preview music, sit down together at the piano and play through “lots and lots and lots” of choices. They put together a mix of classical, popular, sacred and holiday tunes. Most of the pieces played are orchestrated by the Julliard-trained Dr. Errante himself.

For this coming Friday’s performance of “Caroling, Caroling,” the Girls’ Choir will sing the traditional “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” Moravian carols, “O Sifuni Mungu” and three Hanukkah songs, “S’vivon,” “Al Shlosha D’Varim” and “Shalom Rav.”

Soloist for “O Sifuni Mungu,” Lanielle Rivera remembers a Girls’ Choir winter retreat at Myrtle Beach. “Ms. Sandy, and a few of the other girls and I took a polar plunge into the ocean,” she says, “and it was the most fun—cold but fun! Sandy is a great person and I love her. She has put her own personal touch on my life and I will never forget her.”

Members of the Girls’ Choir range in age from 9 to 18 years. They audition for the group and attend weekly practices because they want to sing in the choir. The younger girls look up to the older ones, and are frequently mentored and encouraged to be good students and active citizens in supporting the community.

Many of the older girls have passed the five-year mark. They are celebrated with a limousine ride, a fancy dinner and other awards. “By the time a choir member is a senior in high school, she can drive and make choices about how she spends her time,” Errante says. “So it’s quite a compliment to the group that she chooses to stay with us.”

Last Christmas, some 20 alums rose from the audience and joined the choir in singing the closing Irish hymn, “May the Road Rise to Meet You.” Many of the young women are college graduates and accomplished in their work. Some are married, and most have formed life-long friendships.
For the unassuming yet confident Errante, sharing one’s talent is key to her own happiness and the well-being of those with whom she works and plays. When not planning or conducting for the choir, Sandy surfs with the Wrightsville Beach Longboard Association. She loves to work with very young children, and teaches at the Wilmington Academy for Arts and Sciences and St. Mark’s Montessori School. She is also the sole director for Kindermusik, a delightful program for children, newborn to 7 years of age.

When asked when she sleeps, Errante laughs and talks about her two early mentors, high-school choir conductor Deen Entsminger and college choir conductor Jim Erb, teachers who stand out in the crossroads of her life. “Both men were these wild, energetic characters who made us want to sing for them, and drove us until everything was perfect,” she says. “They had the kind of personality that made you want to work hard, give it your all and be the best choir you could possibly be.”

Join the Errantes and the Girls’ Choir of Wilmington this Friday night, December 16th at 7 p.m. at the beautiful First Presbyterian Church, 125 S. 3rd Street. Admission is free. The performance is priceless!

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