N. Carroll chorus New York-bound

Forty-seven students will be part of a performance at Carnegie Hall.

April 17, 2005|By Katie Martin | Katie Martin,SUN STAFF

Student voices resonated within the choir room at North Carroll High School in Hampstead, as they sang while the choral director played the piano. At the conclusion of one section of the song, they listened intently as the director instructed which lines to repeat and which notes to hit on key.

That's when a voice from the back asked whether the altos could try line 44 again.

The students have been practicing for more than three months to learn a musical composition for several performances, including a concert at Carnegie Hall.

On Memorial Day, 47 students from North Carroll's choir program will perform at Carnegie Hall with the New England Symphonic Ensemble and other choruses from around the country. They are working on a piece by British composer John Rutter for the concert.

Rutter, a resident of Cambridge, England, is a composer, conductor and recording artist, internationally known for his Christmas carols and choral music. He will work with the students in rehearsals for three days and then conduct the groups as they perform his work May 30.

Rutter said last week that he has worked with choruses in preparation for nearly 100 similar Carnegie Hall concerts since the late 1980s. He said it is his job to take all of the slightly different voices and meld them into a unified performance, turning the choir students into "the finest professionals."

"I say to them at the beginning of it, `OK, here we are ... and in just a few days from now you will be on the stage of Carnegie Hall, and we've got a long journey to get there.'"

Training and then performing with a famous composer adds to the excitement of going to New York City, students said.

Senior Chris Rudy, 17, of Hampstead said it will be cool to work with the composer.

Chris said he envisions Rutter as an eccentric, crazy, fun kind of guy.

"For people that like him and have heard him, he's pretty distinguishable," Chris said. "He has a definite style."

The students will sing Rutter's Requiem, a piece composed in 1985. It is a seven-movement work that is about 45 minutes long and is written in English and Latin, said Patricia Kelley, North Carroll's choral director.

"It's been really exciting that [the students] like the work because sometimes high school kids don't like classical music," Kelley said.

Senior Courtney Burda, 17, of Finksburg said Kelley taught the students tricks to help them learn how to pronounce the Latin words. Having the English translation printed under the Latin also helped the students understand the mood of the lines, she said.

`Looking forward'

"I am looking forward to meeting John Rutter and working with him and getting to combine with other choruses from across the U.S. to produce the sound that he wrote," Courtney said.

Rutter said the choruses will spend four to five hours each day rehearsing. He plans to discuss with them what to expect about the Carnegie Hall performance, such as how the acoustics and the audience's reaction will be different from what happens in their gymnasiums.

"We must not have any stage fright, or any nerves or any complacency," Rutter said. "It's kind of like they are in training in preparation for a big athletic event."

He said that after the choruses have been working together, he always looks for the "breakthrough moment."

"All of a sudden it just clicks and the performance just seems to take shape," he said. "It's like a fuzzy picture that's just out of focus and suddenly it comes into sharp focus. I think that's the moment I look forward to ... just seeing the joy on everyone's face because they've got there."

The concert will feature 10 choirs from high schools, colleges, churches and community groups from several states, including California, Florida, Washington and Alabama.

The event is sponsored by MidAmerica Productions, a New York company that runs a series of concerts every year at Carnegie Hall, said Kathleen Drohan, director of public relations and publications.

Drohan said the company looks for outstanding ensembles to perform, and groups such as North Carroll's chorus are usually recommended by "luminaries in the choral music landscape."

The groups then send in an audition tape, and if they are worthy of performing in Carnegie Hall, they will be invited, Drohan said.

Kelley said that after the chorus received an invitation to perform at the concert, she brought it up to choral-booster parents last April. She said the parents thought it was a great opportunity, and they have been fund raising ever since.

A recent prom fashion show, held in conjunction with Boscov's department store at TownMall of Westminster, raised about $4,000 for the trip. The group also raised funds through a bull roast and through donations from community members and businesses.

$1,000 a student

The cost is about $1,000 a student, which includes the trip to Carnegie Hall, rehearsals and the hotel, Kelley said. The students will spend four nights in New York City, arriving by bus May 27 and returning home May 31.

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