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New youth gospel choir blazing trails in Seattle's music scene

The Seattle Children's Chorus developed "LIFTED!" as way to create more opportunities for young singers south of downtown Seattle. #k5evening

BURIEN, Wash. — Seattle Children's Chorus has evolved a lot in its more than 30 years in existence, but it's never had a choir quite like the one focused on a different type of sacred music — gospel. 

Crystal Hairston is the choir's director. 

"The name literally comes from what gospel music does for me, "Hairston shared. "It's been a lifeline in my life. The messages of gospel music have been the melodies that have played during the darkest times of my life and it's lifted me up."

It's called "LIFTED!" and she's hoping the messages and the energy will do the same for others.   

But for the Seattle Children's Chorus — also known as SCC, this would be a significant shift, one the founder Kris Mason dreamed about making.    

"I just felt like there was this gap," Mason explained. "There was not an available thing for wonderful children of all backgrounds south of downtown. Area families could hardly pack up their kids after school and get to the programs that are available north of the crazy downtown area. It just feels like this is representing who we truly are as part of the Seattle choral community." 

The choir practices weekly at Lake Burien Presbyterian Church. In June, they made their official children's chorus debut. The singers shined and the crowd loved it.

"I could hardly stand still. I felt the tears coming," Mason shared. "There is this incredible energy, rhythm, and joy that just dwells within all gospel music making, and these kids they just exemplified that in their singing, in their harmonies, in their clapping, and in the joy I could read on their faces."

It's the start of something new. But for Mason, who shared in this dream — it marked an end. After founding and running SCC for more than 30 years, the concert would be her last in this role. 

Mason is retiring, but she said "LIFTED!" is a reflection of newer dreams, ones she hopes will live on through the Seattle Children's Chorus. 

"I dream that this gospel choir will explode. I want the Seattle Children's Chorus to dream bigger. We are now at six different choir levels. I want them to do extraordinary, beautiful choral music," Mason said. "But I want us to be recognized also as an organization that's not afraid to embrace this big world of ours."

And 'LIFTED!" is clearly taking off to do just that, carrying songs to make that big world a better place. 

"Gospel music. The word is supposed to mean good news. There is that message in gospel that sends out waves of hope and love," Hariston said. "I don't know where we are going, but I want as many people on the ride as possible."

The choir is open for children ages seven to 18. Auditions will be held Aug. 30 from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. at Lake Burien Presbyterian Church. 

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