HOLLAND, MI – Nearly 40 choir students from Holland High School and Calvary Schools will have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of singing on stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City, officials say.
The iconic music venue, opened in 1891, and has set the international standard for musical excellence.
The schools were invited to perform Saturday, May 19, by Ryan Kelly, who was selected to be a guest conductor. Students will take a bus to New York on Wednesday, May 16.
Kelly, associate professor and associate director of choral activities at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is familiar with the local talent, as former director of the Holland Chorale.
"My time with the Holland Chorale gave me the opportunity to build relationships with choir teachers and hear area choirs,” said Kelly, who directed the adult community chorus from 2009-2012.
"I observed really fine music making and that tradition of excellence has continued through the leadership of Holland’s choir director, Sarah Cox, and Calvary’s Trent Broussard. That’s how this came to be.”
Both Cox and Broussard performed in the Holland Chorale under Kelly’s leadership. The chorale performed at Carnegie Hall in 2011.
The school choirs – 26 students from Holland High and 10 from Calvary Schools of Holland – will be performing as part of a choral festival.
Kelly said they will be performing with several other choral ensembles for a total of 125 to 150 singers. He said they will join forces with the New England Symphonic Ensemble for the 8 p.m. performance.
Senior Emily Ellis said students are counting down the days to the big night. She said choir is a team sport, and she is excited about being on the prestigious stage with people she loves, who will be friends for life.
"Music and choir brings me joy and just fills and feeds my soul in a way nothing else can,” said Ellis, 18, who said she’s been a part of Holland choirs since fifth-grade.
"I am really excited for this once-in-a-lifetime experience that I believe will be life-changing.”
The students will be performing composer and conductor John Rutter’s "The Gift of Life,” and the choral work, "Dona Nobis Pacem” by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
"All of the music is at a significantly more difficult level,” said Broussard, who said Rutter’s work presents more of a rhythmic challenge, while Williams is more a melodic challenge.
"We have been practicing together since January and our kids are doing awesome. Carnegie Hall is an important venue that’s part of our national heritage.”
Cox said their students are reading and accomplishing the music in a way that honors the composer’s original intentions.
"The musicality required is beyond what most high school and even college students would ever get to experience,” she said.
"We have grown this program exponentially to a place that we able to accomplish something at this level. This is really a high-quality program.”
She said it also a very diverse program with students in the four choirs made up very engaged young people of all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds.
Michael Landin, a junior, said everyone is excited about uniting with others to make some beautiful music.
"We are working together as a unit to give our best work,” said Landin, 17. "We strive for opportunities like this.”
Some other participating choruses from the Midwest region are Monmouth College Chorale in Monmouth, IL and Monmouth-Roseville High School Choir.
Superintendent Brian Davis said the students have been practicing tirelessly every before school. He said the community has supported their multiple fundraising activities to earn the $2,500 per person required.
"I think this is an incredible opportunity for the community to understand the value of the arts,” he said, about the significant role the arts can play in the development of children.
"For our students, I think the chance to represent Holland, MI, at Carnegie Hall will be an opportunity to make a forever memory and have an awesome experience to share.”
Davis has been practicing with the students and will perform Saturday. Landin says, ”He can sing.”
Kelly said their will be some intense hours practice in the days leading up to the performance.
"The prestige of the upcoming Carnegie Hall performance inspires and propels ensembles to work and prepare harder than they ever have before,” said Kelly, who will be conducting for the second time at the venue and performing for the fourth.
"This is an opportunity to prove what their best can be.”
Davis said students will have an opportunity to see the sights and a couple shows, "Alladin” and "Phantom of the Opera."
Broussard said after their performance, a fun evening is planned on a ferry.
On Thursday, May 10, three of the high school’s four choirs -the Belle Canto, Concert Choir and Vocal Dimensions – performed at the Michigan School Vocal Music Associations State Choir Festival and received Division 1 excellent ratings.