Born in 1971 into a family of teachers, musicians, and music lovers, Géraldine Focant very early entered the academy of music in Soignies. This musician with multiple talents, who plays piano and flute, also received an organist training at the academy of Mons and studied at the Higher Institute of Music Pedagogy in Namur, after which she learned music therapy. She has taught music in schools and academies and held the position of organist in Soignies. Her musical studies and internships with Gabo Ugrin (Hungary) and Mark Deller (Great Britain) gave birth to her passion for choral singing, and her skills in music education led her to direct different choirs with a very varied repertoire: early music, musicals, world music. Since 1990, she directs the Children's Choir of Hainaut, which performs in Belgium and abroad.

Géraldine FOCANT
I created my choir twenty-five years ago, when I began my musical studies. It started in the small village where I lived. It then had a dozen choristers. I lead this choir on a voluntary basis. I have another job on the side. Every morning I work as a secretary for my husband. The children’s membership fee is used to purchase their uniforms, scores, etc.

Most often, we work in a schoolroom. We put chairs around the family piano. I can sometimes get a room in a school provided I spend half an hour before and after practice, installing and tidying the chairs.

My situation is quite representative of the situation in French-speaking Belgium. There are two worlds: on one hand, some great choirs attached to schools, on the other, volunteers. The advantage of my situation is that it gives me absolute freedom. I work two hours a week on Friday afternoons, and an additional five days each summer to work on artistic expression.
Géraldine FOCANT /

Erica Mandillo holds a master's degree in biophysics from the Faculty of Science in Lisbon, studied piano and received singing lessons at the Lisbon National Conservatory of Music. She was a member of the Gulbenkian choir and the choir of the São Carlos National Theatre.

In 2008, she was invited to direct the artistic activities of the 2nd cycle of the Saint-Joseph College in Lisbon. In 2012, she joined the teaching staff of the National Conservatory of Music of Lisbon, where she was responsible for teaching the choir and body expression class.

She is the founder and artistic director of the association Voz em Movimento, the Camerata Fiorentina and the CIUL - Coro Infantil da Universidade de Lisboa (Children's Choir of the University of Lisbon). With the latter group, she gives numerous concerts in Portugal and abroad.

Erica MANDILLO
I am the director of the choir of the University of Lisbon. Although it is called "Choir of the University", my choir is composed of children. I started to sing at the University, before I distanced myself. But after a while, we realised that many children were gravitating around the choir: it was the children of the singers who came to attend the rehearsals. So I was called and asked to make these children sing. At that time, I had never choreographed, nor had I imagined working with children. I must say that patience was never my forte. But I happened to be the mother of a four-year-old girl, and I had noticed she was singing incredibly. I do not say that because she's my daughter. I speak as a musician. At the time, I was a light soprano. When I sang the Queen of the Night Aria, she was able to reproduce it perfectly, in key, in German. That was when I became aware of the infinite possibilities of a child's voice.

I started with 8 children, then 20, then 40... Currently we are over 180. We work once a week, on Sunday, for two and a half hours. The sectional rehearsals are held once a month. We are fortunate to benefit from the University Hall, one of the largest halls in Lisbon, which has one thousand six hundred seats and a grand piano.
Erica MANDILLO /

Born in Turin, he studied fortepiano and conducting. A graduate of choral music and composition from the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Turin, he went on to study in Sweden with the great choir director, Gary Graden and became his assistant. He specialised with Eric Ericson, Tonu Kaljuste and Frieder Bernius. In 2003, he founded and directed the Coro G in Turin, and since 2005, he has served as artistic director of the association Piccoli Cantori di Torino which participates in numerous concerts and shows in Italy and abroad. Currently, he is professor of direction, interpretation and choral improvisation in Italy and Europe. In 2012, he was the artistic director of the Europa Cantat XVIII festival in Turin. He currently holds the post of vice president of the European Choral Association - Europa Cantat.

Carlo PAVESE
After studying choral music at the conservatory in Turin, I obtained a grant from the association De Sono, which allowed me to go to Sweden to study with choir director Gary Graden. I was lucky enough to become his assistant afterwards. After serving as artistic director of two vocal ensembles in Stockholm and then in Turin, I have directed the Coro G in Turin since its foundation in 2003. It is a vocal ensemble composed of young people aged 16 to 26 years. Since 2005, I am also artistic director of the choir Piccoli Cantori di Torino.

For me, movement is not closely connected to my practice of choral singing. The question arises, however, on the occasion of special projects, operas for children or plays. These are strong experiences for children. Movement helps them build their relationship to space, their individual ability to play and to present themselves in public. This is especially true for teenagers who encounter problems in the perception of their bodies, their "new" bodies. I find it very interesting to conduct this reflection during performances, to think about their movements in space, about the position of the choir vis-à-vis the public. I am hoping the exchanges with the other project participants will enrich my practice in the field
Carlo PAVESE /

After obtaining a First Prize diploma in piano at the Strasbourg Conservatory and a doctorate in musicology at the Sorbonne, Charlotte Nessi applied her musical skills toward democratising opera. She founded the Ensemble Justiniana in 1982, aspiring to renew the approach to lyrical repertoire and produce new works. For more than 34 years, more than 40 shows have appeared, both on Opera stages and around the villages of Franche-Comté and elsewhere. Through her many original creations where dance and theatre blend with music, she brings together amateurs and professional artists for opera-walks (opéras-promenades).

For many years Charlotte Nessi has conducted workshops for the youngest and productions centered on the children’s voices. Thanks to this work, the Edwige-Feuillère Theatre in Vesoul, which she has directed since 2009, received the prestigious label “Scène Conventionnée - Children’s Voices/Stage Space”.

An American living in Paris since 1986, and a specialist in children’s voices, he graduated from the Eastman School of Music of New York in choir direction and pedagogy for children, and he conducts numerous concerts and makes tours in France and other countries. In 1990, he was appointed professor of musical and body expression and of singing at the School of Dance of the Paris National Opera. In 1992, with the help of Marc-Olivier Dupin, he created the children's choir, Sotto Voce, which has performed in the biggest halls of France and abroad. In residence at the Théâtre du Châtelet for more than 10 years, he also works regularly at the Paris National Opera in collaboration with Charlotte Nessi of the Ensemble Justiniana where he conducts operas for children. A great pedagogue, he guides children to original performances in an eclectic repertoire.

Scott Alan PROUTY
I created Sotto Voce more than 20 years ago, with the support of the city of Créteil. I wanted to create a kind of "artistic family" where children could feel good, learn to sing, develop their creativity and artistic personality, discover the happiness of being onstage, and learn the rigour and importance of forming a team spirit.

I am from the United States. There, the culture of movement is really anchored in the work of choirs. You never see static choirs, they move constantly. There, all kids are exposed to musicals while going to school. They are used to singing. And then there's jazz, too. There is the idea that the body must be inhabited to sing, that it is a total performance.

Having grown up in New England in the USA, my musical education has been very eclectic: large music conservatories, school choirs, madrigal groups and barbershop quartets, playing musicals since the age of 8 years old, and the many evenings spent listening to Count Basie and Lionel Hampton's Big Band orchestras, jazz clubs in New York and the awesome summers in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its Choir Festival under the direction of my idol, Leonard Bernstein. My biggest happiness when I was young was to spend my Sunday in New York City watching "The” new Broadway musical!

All these experiences have given me a strong desire to transmit music to children through my passion for singing and for the stage. When I came to France, I naturally let myself be somewhat won over by the French spirit, this form of classicism, but I nevertheless retained this culture of movement.

For the past 10 years, we have been lucky enough to be in residence at the Théâtre du Châtelet.
Scott Alan PROUTY /