Musical Bonds: SMS at the N.C. Chorale Festival
Posted October 26, 2012
Before the sun rose Saturday morning, the Saint Mary’s School Chorale was awake - packing dresses, pearls, music. Songs had been rehearsed to excellence. Everything necessary for a weekend away was planned, boxed, prepared and organized. The 2012 Independent Schools Chorale Festival was going to be perfect. Unfortunately, I woke up with severe laryngitis. How would I keep the students on task? How would we rehearse? How would I manage thirty-two girls among almost two hundred high school singers? However, as quickly as the apprehension set in, it disappeared. My experienced singers took over, delegating tasks, handing out music, checking to make sure that new students had what they needed for rehearsal, giving directions. I stepped back and let the girls take the lead.
The Chorale Festival takes place annually over two days. Students from across the state come with five new works of music to combine and perform in a mass choir. They come to the festival knowing notes and rhythms, the song’s skeleton, and after fifteen hours, (yes, they sing for fifteen hours!), of rehearsing with a world renowned clinician, the singers transform print on a page to a body of music that stopped time. There were songs that brought tears and songs that inspired dance. In all of the music festivals that I have attended, I have never been to one that moved an audience this profoundly. Dr. Deanna Joseph, the clinician, had come directly from the Lund Choral Festival in Sweden where she was presenting. Even though it would have been understandable for her to be exhausted, she was truly energizing and demanded the best from her new choir. Dr. Joseph chose the mass choir pieces. Florrie McCard ’14 noted, “even though the performers all come from different places and different experiences, we share the bond of the festival music. Suddenly a stranger becomes a friend because you both know how hard you have worked to learn Kpanlongo, and you stick together because it is only with everyone’s voices that we are able to make such beautiful music!”
I have to mention that our girls were exceptional in rehearsal and performance. Dr. Joseph was particularly impressed with their work ethic and focus in rehearsal as well as their talent and commitment to their music in performance. They are wonderful ambassadors for Saint Mary’s. Sylvia Weir ’13, “looks forward to the festival every year! Being able to represent Saint Mary’s is amazing and being able to bring true beauty and inspiring music to the community is a blessing.” The Saint Mary’s Chorale also performed two songs by themselves. Their technique was almost flawless, but my husband, who has seen almost as many choral concerts as I, said that what makes the Chorale’s performances a highlight year after year is their connection to the audience. They tell a story by singing with their hearts. As their director, I find that overwhelming sometimes. You have to be a brave performer to stop being so careful and start living in the moment.
What did I learn from the festival? Our Saint Mary’s girls are special. With a little guidance, encouragement, and trust, they can create the most magnificent moments. As a teacher, it is hard to let them take risks, but they can. And when they really hit their mark, they make magic. Lura Li ’16 told me, “I now understand why girls stay in Chorale for four years even when they have so much work and are so busy. Here, giving this performance is where I find my strength.”
Director of Choral Programs
Instructor of Voice