The choir, consisting of Minnesota girls 12-18, recently returned from the Golden Gate International Choral Festival in San Francisco, where they took home some notable placements – two golds, one silver and one special award.
Julia Fahey, of Brooklyn Center, is the founder and artistic director for Partners in Praise and started the choir in 1994. Originally, the choir was open to both boys and girls and was formed to perform with Donny Osmond in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The choir performed more than 50 shows with Osmond, and after it was over, the girls didn’t want to quit.
After seeing girls struggle to reach goals and often taking a backseat to boys, Fahey made the executive decision to recast Partners in Praise as an all-girls choir.
“I sang professionally, and I’ve seen how the power of music can change lives,” Fahey said. “I have two daughters and a son, and wanted a fair opportunity for them.”
Fahey, a music teacher at the Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights and children’s choir director at Peace Lutheran Church in Robbinsdale, has led the Partners choir to numerous concert stages around the world including Greece, Australia, Italy and Germany.
Each year, the choir travels to a different music festival or competition. Fahey alternates taking the choir international and within the U.S.
The girls have the opportunity to fundraise for the annual trips, but Fahey says she doesn’t leave any of the girls out because of financial hardships.
“If someone has an interest and talent, we work around it,” she said.
The choir received high marks during its latest festival at the Golden Gate International Children’s and Youth Choral Festival in Oakland, Calif. Partners in Praise received gold rankings in both their folk and historical concerts and silver in their contemporary concert. They also received the Angel Choir award, an honor that goes to a choir that shows leadership to other choirs.
“That was everything,” Fahey said. “That was more important than any gold or silver. This award was very touching and it goes with our mission statement.
“It’s a scary world,” Fahey said. “So having my girls reach out and be the ones to initiate conversation and sing a diverse repertoire, it says a lot about Minnesota, their families, church and school.”
Partners and Praise was just one choir among 20 from seven different countries that participated in the festival that occurs once every three years.
This year, the girls stayed with host families during their eight-day stay in California. By living with families of different backgrounds, the girls learned to “let down the borders and build bridges.”
“What’s rewarding is seeing the girls make good decisions and become leaders and have a greater understanding of the world and realize they can make a difference,” Fahey said.
“I think the fun I had was learning from people all around the world,” Mariah Hoffman, 18, of Inver Grove Heights, said. “You meet so many different people and learn different types of music. It’s been fun.”
This was Hoffman’s first year in Partners in Praise and she said she joined after hearing from friends about what a great opportunity it was.
“It’s just another great strength and opportunity to share music with people everywhere,” she said. “The people in Partners are so welcoming and all of my friends were there, and I’ve made a lot more.”
Rachel Hammer, 14, of Golden Valley, said being in Partners in Praise has allowed her to be a part of a team and to meet girls like Hoffman, who don’t go to her school.
“I really think it’s a good experience,” Rachel said. “I really love the challenge of the music and the reward you get when it pays off.”
When she is picking songs for the festivals and competitions, Fahey said she looks at what issues are going on in the world and where the competition is taking place.
“I love seeing how singing can change lives,” she said. “I always tell my girls ‘we’re going to sing a few songs and learn a lot about life.’”
Fahey will hold auditions for Partners in Praise in August and September and is planning to take the choir to Tuscany, Italy, next summer.
“The Partners in Praise girls have the same standards through all of my stuff,” Fahey said. “…Realizing they can make a difference and there are no doors closed. You can make it happen.”