Local students shine at regional choral festival
BY PAT FARNELLI
Tone quality, musicality, diction (of song text), pitch accuracy, intonation, and rhythm: these are the factors judges use to select students for advanced choral festivals.
In order to “make it to” regional or state choral competitions, students must audition alone before four judges, singing prepared pieces from the selected repertoire.
This year, both school districts in Wyoming County and all six districts in Susquehanna County sent their most accomplished vocalists to the PMEA Region IV Chorus Festival, held Saturday at Midd-West High School in Middleburg, Snyder County.
John Vito Powell of Tunkhannock Area and Meredith Horwatt of Lackawanna Trail advanced to the state level.
Blue Ridge School District had a stellar year, sending seven students to Regional Chorus, two of whom advanced to the state competition.
Choral director Amy Zakarauskas was thrilled to have a senior, Madison Button, and sophomore Allen Weed qualify for the state chorus festival. Button placed second in the Soprano II section for states, which will be held in Erie.
Only four students in each part advance to the next level.
Saturday’s Regional Choral Festival was conducted by Christopher Kiver, Director of Choral Activities at Pennsylvania State University.
The festival host was Andrew Finck, and Dr. Wesley Knapp gave the welcome as Midd-West’s superintendent.
Kiver sent the regional chorus participants a copy of his conductor’s notes well in advance, writing “as a member of a region choir, it is imperative that you put in sufficient time preparing ahead of the festival.”
After specifying how students should notate their scores, and introducing each piece as a work of art, he concluded his missive by quoting Howard Swann, one of the foremost American choral directors, which he said reminds us of why we love to be involved in music, and what our continual goal should be as musicians: “for the creation and recreation of that which is beautiful. Beauty in form–beauty in sound–and hopefully, beauty in the wonderful transformation of the human spirit.”
The first song in the program was “Whether men do laugh or weep” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, an important English composer who was a prolific composer for voice, from folk song arrangements to opera. This lighthearted piece is from a cantata “In Windsor Forest;” it was also the conclusion of his opera, “Sir John in Love,” and is based on the theme of reconciliation, the ironic belief that “there is underneath the sun nothing in true earnest done,” and the conclusion that “the world is but a play.”
“The Silver Swan,” a haunting, ethereal, polyphonic piece by Orlando Gibbons, is a sixteenth century English madrigal. The madrigal, a secular musical form which flourished in Italy, caught on with the royal court and wealthy folk of London in the late 1500s-1600s. The lyrics recount the myth that the swan is mute except in his last moments of life, or the cliched “swan song.”
“The silver swan, who living had no note, when death approached, unlocked her throat, leaning her breast against the reedy shore, thus sung her first and last, and sung no more. Farewell all joys, O death come close mine eyes, more geese now live, more fools than wise,” are the plaintive lyrics.
“Come, O Come, My Life’s Delight,” the prettiest song in the repertoire, was a lyrical, lilting poem by Thomas Campion about the anticipation of meeting one’s beloved, set to music by David Dickau.
Buffalo Gals,” a fun and slightly flirty setting of an American folksong, was arranged by Bob Chilcott, an English composer of choral music.
So I’ll Sing with My Voice,” by Dominick Argento a song of praise by a significant American composer from York, with solos by Rachel Yohe of Central Columbia High School and Dante Green of Bloomsburg High School that were energetic, clear and crisp.
“In virtute tua” by Grzegorz Corczycki, the most significant Polish composer of the Baroque period, employed a string trio, comprised of violinists Priscilla Conrad and Andrew Rammon and cellist Marcus Smolensky.
Sacred music for unaccompanied choir “Kyrie eleison” or “Lord have mercy” from Deutche Liturgie by Felix Mendelssohn moved directly into “Amen” from Dan Forrest’s Words from Paradise with no break between. “Amen” is a peaceful, lovely choral repetition of the single word “Amen,” with a soprano solo of sweet purity.
The concluding piece was “Great Day,” a rousing, rhythmic, joyous spiritual, with tenor Dante Green again featured as soloist.
Local students participating in the Regional Chorus Festival:
FROM SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY: Blue Ridge: Destiny Galu-Edgar, Soprano I; Madison Button, Soprano II; Sierra Marriott, Alto I; Faith Galu-Edgar, Alto II; Dustyn Carpenter, Tenor I; Michael Gathany and Allen Weed, Bass II.
Elk Lake: Sarita Farnelli, Alto II.
Forest City: Sonny Albright, Bass I.
Montrose Area: Mollie Host, Soprano II; Gracie Lutz, Alto I; Amanda Rucker, Alto II; Jacob Kerbaugh, Bass II.
Mountain View: Peter Maloney. Tenor II.
Susquehanna: Coleman Hansen, Tenor II; Clayton Hanson, Bass I.