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‘Homeschool’ chorus brings adults and children together

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GROTON — Rachael Barlow has loved making music since she can remember, but this year finds her especially excited as one of her pet projects gets ready for a special holiday performance.

“Music is such a great way of connecting communities, especially around the holiday season,” Barlow said.

The All Together Now Family Chorus, which is gaining in local popularity, is a multigenerational chorus dedicated to getting children and adults together to sing and to share a love of music. Over 20 home-schooling families gather weekly to rehearse songs together and in small groups for their winter and spring community concerts. Barlow has been one of the music directors since the chorus began four years ago.

“When we started, the flavor of the group was very different. I often directed with my youngest child in a sling, and most parents in the group had one child in arms. The older children were only 4 or 5,” Barlow said. “Now they have much more confidence and are singing solos and complex harmonies. We’ve come so far from our first rehearsal of ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat.'”

The adults in the chorus have also pulled together as a group over the years to make the all-volunteer chorus a success. “The way each family pitches in to help is amazing to me.”

Barlow resides in Groton with her family. She started playing piano and singing at age 5 and found herself attracted to the power of music. “Making music was one of the few activities where I could just lose myself. I remember in college losing four to five hours at a time in the music building rehearsal rooms.” She currently plays keyboard and sings in her church’s contemporary Christian rock band. Music is an important part of both her church and her family life. “The privilege of being transported by the music is something I wanted my children to have. For me, there are very few experiences that top good choral singing.”

She is one of four local directors, each with their own personality and approach to music and directing. The other directors are Christina Kennedy, a Stow resident with degrees in music and extensive teaching and performance experience; Manoj Padki of Lowell, a baritone in the championship barbershop chorus the Granite Statesman; and Jan Power of Concord, a guitarist and vocal recording artist.

The chorus has performed several times for packed rooms at the Groton library, Groton First Night, and Castle Hill Adult Day Care Center in Chelmsford. They have also held several “Family and Friends” concerts each year.

“The children love to perform, which was a surprise to some of us. We thought they might feel intimidated,” Barlow said. “It’s so much fun to watch the audience and see everyone having as much fun as we are. My favorite place to perform is Castle Hill — several people in the audience usually break out singing enthusiastically with us.”

The All Together Now Family Chorus concert will take place at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Westford on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. Suggested donation is $2 per person or $5 per family. The theme for the concert will be “Deck the Planets,” a combination of songs about the planets, stars and moon with holiday sing-alongs.

The donations will go to Loaves & Fishes, a food pantry that helps out individuals and families in need, especially around the holiday time. “This is the first year we’re donating our ticket admissions to a local charity,” said Barlow. “Loaves & Fishes is such a worthwhile cause. I’m thrilled we can help support it.”

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