(Story as it appeared in the Staten Island Advance on October 11th. All photos by Scott Vollweiler of Broken Records Magazine)
Through the aging corridors of P.S. 22 lies one of
Staten Island's best kept secrets, the Chorus of P.S. 22.
At 4 P.M. on Friday October 8, singer/songwriter KT Tunstall arrived at P.S. 22, Graniteville. Walking into the auditorium there was a loud roar from the students leading Tunstall to raise her guitar in celebration.
Led by music teacher Gregg Breinberg, the choir of fifth graders are one of the most talented spectacles one can find on the Island. Their dedication and hard work create an aura of excitement as their angelic voices reverberate across the room.
Breinberg, or Mr. B, as they call him, sits behind a piano and pans out the tunes as he passionately conducts and sings along. After every song, he stops to tell the children what they need to work on, and who is doing outstanding. As a teacher he is sure to constantly encourage the kids and treat them as equals to one another.
|Greg Breinberg, music teacher.|
In seemingly flawless pitch and harmony the students dug into "Imagine" by John Lennon, with as much gusto and joy as Lennon had intended it to have. The children then joined together in unison dancing on rhythm, and doing hand motions.
Tunstall, looking quite impressed, was now ready to play two of her songs off her new album Tiger Suit. The kids had rehearsed the two tracks ahead of time, and were now playing them along side of Tunstall.
The singer moved into the aisle so she can have the children surround her. Then rather beautifully she started to belt out in a booming, yet delicate voice, the beginning of her song "Still a Weirdo".
On certain phrases of the verse and on the chorus the choir chimed in and added a layer of harmony taking the song to the next level. Tunstall and the children went through the song about five times with each time getting better. Mr. B kept pointing out weak spots in the song after each take until it was perfect. All the while he remained smiling and the kids remained eager to excel.
After seeing how the kids operated as a group, Tunstall knew how to work with them. For the next song, she improvised a little, added suggestion, and helped the students get it right. This song was her new single "Fade like a Shadow".
Mr. B was a little unsure of how the song would come about because they hadn't practiced it too much. Never-the-less, they nailed it after much trial and error. During some of the more frustrating parts of going over the song, Tunstall made sure to joke and laugh with the kids. She genuinely looked like she was having fun, and seemed to bond with the kids.
At around 5:30 p.m. it was time for the parents to pick up their kids. But before each student left, Tunstall made sure to give every student a signed CD and poster, as well as meet and take pictures with the kids. Tunstall answered all of the fifth graders' questions, and was sure to have a smile on her face.
Overall the experience of this day was only open to that class. There wasn't a flood of paparazzi and press there to distract form the mission. She was able to be a regular person doing a good deed. The practice performance was very intimate and sure to leave an impression on those youngsters’ lives.
Tunstall walked in humble and left even more humble.