St. Joseph choir goes to Carnegie Hall

COLUMBIA — Teresa Riley, director of music at St. Joseph Church in Columbia, continues to take her choirs to new heights. The members of the church’s Bel Canto Choir would never have imaged that they would be performing with three famous community choirs at Carnegie Hall in New York.

After auditioning, the Bel Canto Choir — the only church choir chosen to perform at the 10th North American Children’s Chorale June 27 — began practicing their musical scores from composers such as Vivaldi, Clausen, Thompson, and McClure. Riley didn’t waste any time in preparing her choir for the difficult four-part treble music. She worked with the group almost a year prior to their performance.

“People think that children will only enjoy simple music, but they love the great composers,” said Riley.

Riley was proud of the hard work and dedication coming from her 35 young singers who ranged from fourth grade to high school. When they arrived in New York, they had several three-hour rehearsals prior to opening night and conducted themselves like professional performers.

“I was proud to be part of the select group of people who have had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall,” said Kristin Winters, a high school choir member who took advantage of this great opportunity.

The choir members’ families were great support, according to Riley. They organized fund-raisers for the choir’s trip, and some parents went along as chaperones. Although there was little free time, choir members and their families took a cruise to see the Statue of Liberty and also went to a Broadway performance of “Beauty and the Beast.”

“The experience was indescribable. The full impact hit us when we saw the children on the stage. Carnegie Hall just takes your breath away, especially when you think of all the people who have performed there,” recalled Kristin’s mother, Rosanna Winters, who accompanied her daughter.

After all the preparation, Riley was able to sit in the audience and watch her choir take direction from Janet Galvan, a famous children’s choir conductor, and see them dazzle the audience at Carnegie Hall.

“The experience was life changing,” concluded Riley.

The Bel Canto Choir of St. Joseph may be heard on the recordings “Festival of Lessons and Carols” and “Season of Wonder,” both of which feature the St. Joseph adult and children’s choirs. CDs are available for $15 and tapes for $12, plus $1.75 postage and handling. You may place an order by going online to, or by calling Teresa Riley at St. Joseph Church at (803) 254-7646 ext. 5.