Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

People were not only whistling, they were actually singing, as they trudged up the Kennedy Center Concert Hall's aisles Wednesday night after the "Grand Finale Performance" of the first International Youth Choral Festival.

After the intermission all five participating choirs joined on stage to sing spirituals and gospel songs under actor/former vaudevillian Jester Hairston.

It seemed at first a little incongrous to have children from such disparate places as Iceland and Hong Kong singing American black music under the direction of a veteran of the "Amos 'in' Andy" show. But the audience warned to Hairston quickly and before long he had the capacity crowd singing along too.

The audience performed formidably in the final number, Hairston's "The Goodbye Song," and people were still singing "Keep a smile on your face when you say goodbye" as they departed. In fact during the final number one has no idea how the chorus was doing, because their singing was submerged in the din.

Hairston's part of the program was as much show biz as art. It was balanced out by a first half in which each participating choir performed serveral works on their own, and in which art reigned supreme.

The marvel of the festival and clearly the audience favourite, was the exquisite little Children's Choir of Sam Juan, which had performed so beautifully at the opening concert of the festival.

One heard musicianship from about 20 youths whose average age couldn't have been 11 or 12 at the most. They have all the attributes of the finest adult choirs - purity of tone, precision, flexible and sophisticated phrasing.

Another hit of the long evening was the large Hong Kong Children's Choir. It was not so much their singing as their dancing that made the show. They performed an extended song cycle with a dance called "Moonlight Festival." Their silk costumes in dozens of shades were a visual feast, and their circular dance with extended blue feather fan fluttering - to represent the moon - was splendid - choreography.

The Memmonite Children's Choir marched on stage with lighted candles singing a charming song called "One Little Candle." The Choir Oldutumsskola from Iceland performed some avant-garde songs that took considerable virtuosity. And the Page High School Choral Ensemble of Greensboro, N.C., repeated some of the spirituals they had sone so well the day before.