COEUR d’ALENE — The sweet voices of about a dozen youngsters carried throughout the Plaza Shops.
“We are the children, walking hand in hand,” they sang. “We stand for good.”
Dressed in the colorful traditional garb of their ancestors’ countries, members of the International Peace Choir shared messages of hope, peace and unity Thursday as they serenaded the crowd.
China, Ireland, Italy, the United States, Iceland, Cameroon, France, Mexico, Canada, Austria and Spain were the countries represented, but the children’s words were meant for all.
“When the kids see that their audience is positively affected by them, they also realize they have an incredible power to make an impact on others for good,” said choral director Olivia Modica. "The appeal of seeing these
children on stage doing something that they love awakens the child inside of us as adults. It reminds us of joy and happiness and getting along and just being kind to one another, and I think that’s something that gets lost along the way as we grow."
The International Peace Choir visited Coeur d'Alene this week while recording an album at a studio in Athol. This is only the second time the traveling nonprofit, based in southern California, has appeared in Coeur d'Alene in the choir's 30-year existence.
"This is my first trip with the choir and it has been a great time,” said 9-year-old Keira Cabanel-Bleuer of Long Beach, who represented Spain. "Spending time with my friends, it actually feels like family. And we play a lot together."
The choir welcomes members ages 5-18 who have a drive to learn cultural songs and dances and travel throughout the year to perform in various settings. Performance locations can range from assisted living facilities to Disneyland, and the choir has entertained presidents and royalty.
"It always brings a smile to my face to see other people smiling and bringing them joy,” said Cosette Collins, 16, of Anaheim. "Being in the choir has been a second family to me. They really become your family. It’s not like anything else."
Cosette enjoys the full meaning of family in the choir because her brother, Dominic, 18, performs alongside her. She has been in the choir for 11 years and he has been in it for 13.
"Being a leader to the children really makes me feel happy, for them and for me,” Dominic said. “Me watching them grow into better performers with stage presence and everything makes me so proud."
Although the kids travel and rehearse a lot and their message of peace is sincere, they don't forget to have fun along the way.
“I like that we serve messages,” said 14-year-old Kellen Franklin of Long Beach, who represented Cameroon. “There are important lessons that we learn. One is that I have to silence my cellphone."