You’ve probably heard or, at least, heard of them before. The fifth graders from Stated Island’s Public School 22 who, under the leadership of director Gregg Breinberg, have been offering their renditions of popular songs up to the blogoverse since 2006 and have since met been hailed as “the best-known elementary school chorus on the planet” (New York magazine). Inspired by the Langley Schools Music Project, a late-’70s play-because-you-love-to project by some Canadian school kids, PS22 is currently in its 14th year of offering a place for some of Staten Island’s children to express themselves by singing their hearts out together. Whether it is the direction of their obviously well-loved director, that 10 seems like the perfect age to get kids to fall totally in love with something they already like, or that ineffable magic of music and what happens when you make it with others, these kids always give their all, with an eyes-closed innocence that most of us can’t even fake once we get past 20. Perhaps it could only happen in a city like New York but PS22 strikes a chord with me for its willingness to take on all types of popular music, forming a body of work that is diverse as he kids that comprise the chorus. From Adele and James Blunt to Tame Impala and Beach house, there is room for everyone under PS22’s umbrella and that, for me, is enough to make me want to be a more loving, accepting person.
I have always loved music (though I’ve never been a very good singer) so Mr. Breinberg’s chorus is easy for me to get behind. And if you don’t want to scrunch your eyes and sing your heart out to your favorite song after watching these videos…I just wonder what your favorite song is. I mean, a collection of harmonizing young voices even makes Robert Smith’s time-stopping weeper sound like a hopeful anthem. Here’s hoping that music continues to be a safe place and a joyous aspect of life for these kinds for a long time to come. Here are some of my favorite performances of theirs: