Broadway veteran launches children’s chorus for holiday concert
She’s performed on the Broadway stage, in New York City cabarets and appeared on television and in films.
But at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, Broadway veteran Lynnie Godfrey performs in downtown Allentown with some of her most beloved co-stars, the 15 members of Allentown Children’s Chorus.
Godfrey and the young singers, who are first- through sixth-grade students, will perform for “Come Spend the Holidays with Lynnie Godfrey and the ACC” at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 37 S. Fifth St., Allentown.
The concert came about out of “an interesting situation,” Godfrey says.
Godfrey, born and raised in New York City, moved to the Lehigh Valley when her husband retired seven years ago.
“There was not enough room and not enough green,” Godfrey says of the city.
Godfrey made her Broadway debut in 1978 in the Tony-nominated musical revue, “Eubie!,” based on the life and work of Eubie Blake. In July, Godfrey was invited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ground-breaking musical with fellow members of the original Broadway cast at Feinstein’s 54 Below in Manhattan.
Godfrey and her husband had friends in the Bethlehem area and determined the location of convenient proximity to New York City. “I love how when you come home, there is sense of community,” Godfrey says.
Godfrey got involved with Friends of Music, an organization that preserves classical music. But when she started visiting schools, she says that budget cuts in the Allentown School District affected access to arts education.
Godfrey decided she wanted to start a free children’s choir from among students in the Allentown School District. With funding from 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a federal grant program that helps communities provide enrichment activities, particularly for students in high-poverty areas, she auditioned children in kindergarten through fifth grades for a choir to start in February.
“I grew up in Harlem,” Godfrey says. ”My parents worked two jobs and wanted more for their daughter. I want to give back to those same families. Music is everything to me and I hope to instill that same love in these talented children.”
Since then, the choir has been rehearsing at various sites in Allentown. When they were ready to perform, Godfrey approached St. John’s, which hosts the “Arts at St. John’s” music series. The church was more than happy to host the concert.
Godfrey has been excited to expose the children and their families to the arts.
In the summer, the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival provided tickets to see “Alice in Wonderland.” What surprised Godfrey was not that the students had never been to the theater, but that some of the parents had never been to the theater.
Damaris Nieves says it has been a “once in a lifetime learning experience” for his nine-year-old daughter Jaynalis to be a member of the chorus.
“Being part of Lynnie’s concert makes her feel important,” Nieves says. “Our daughter attends a charter school that does not offer chorus, so this is a complete benefit for her.”
Godfrey says “you feel good when pass on things that have been gifted to you.”
She says she has helped the students learn how to breathe and how to stand.
“I love seeing them do their thing,” she says. “I’m so proud. I just hope this is something they will remember. I want it to be an experience for them.”
The children will sing holiday favorites like “Silent Night,” “The Christmas Song,” “Feliz Navidad,” “12 Days of Christmas” and “The Lords Prayer.”
Godfrey says she will sing, but separately from the children.
“I want to give them their moment,” she says, “I want their clear angelic voices to be heard.”
She says the students have learned choreography so they get the “whole Broadway experience.”
Godfrey will perform songs on her own, including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” and “Auld Lang Syne.”
Godfrey says she is thrilled to see the children shine.
“They will be excited and a bit nervous, but I’m going to have a great time,” she says. “I love the art of teaching. Music is universal.”
Godfrey says the city is supporting the concert by offering free parking in the Community Deck at Fifth and Walnut streets.
“I’m honored to perform these cherished songs in a gorgeous church with the Allentown Children’s Chorus,” Godfrey says.
She adds she will donate a portion of the proceeds to St. John’s.
Tickets are expected to be available at the door. Information: lynniegodfrey.com