By singing the songs of other cultures and times, children learn to value others and make the world a better place.
This is the hope of the Youth Choral Theater of Chicago as they are about to perform a work of peace and tolerance entitled, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.”
The work is based on poems and drawings from children imprisoned in the Terezin concentration camp during the Holocaust. According to Artistic Director Paul Caldwell, it’s hard for children to understand their personal connection to an event that is removed by time and geography, but this work makes intolerance a very real thing.
“We use music to help make kids more aware of the world we live in,” says Caldwell, speaking about the mission of the Youth Choral Theater. “We’re building a world of social consciousness—we just happen to be doing it with music.”
“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” will be performed on Sunday, April 28 at 5 p.m. at the North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe.
When Caldwell first performed “Butterfly” in Washington, DC 10 years ago, an elderly man watched the rehearsal and then asked to speak to the children. “He came on stage and told us he had written the poem they had just performed,” Caldwell says. He was one of only a few children to survive the concentration camps, and had read about the upcoming performance in the newspaper.
Caldwell told this moving tribute to the students currently performing the work, and says, “It’s important to put kids in touch with things they might not otherwise be aware of. It’s important to stop, remember and be aware.”
In addition to this upcoming performance, the Youth Choral Theater is dedicated to helping kids in grades K-12 find their voice. According to Caldwell, “By singing each other’s songs, we learn that, although we are different, we are all truly beautiful. And if we, the children of the world, learn to value all other children as beautiful people, we make our world a better place. This is what we believe. This is why we sing.”
Photo: Youth Choral Theater under the direction of Paul Caldwell sings “I Never Saw Another Butterfly”