Choir takes on NYC
YC Soprano Sings Solo at NYC's Lincoln Center
(From Cloudburst by Eric Whitacre, poem by Octavio Paz)
York College’s Concert Choir performed at Lincoln Center, New York City on Sunday, June 28 concluding an intense preparation for one of music’s most prestigious venues. Renee Willard, YC senior elementary education major, and music minor, from Golden, Colorado, was selected from the 223 combined-voice choir as a featured soloist.
Hosted by Distinguished Concerts International - New York (DCINY), the event included nine choirs chosen by audition performing the music of Eric Whitacre, currently America’s pre-eminent composer of choral music. This premiere event featured the composer as conductor.
The unique opportunity to work with Eric Whitacre during rehearsals and the performance proved to be a highlight for many students. Senior vocal performance and music education major from Love’s Park, Illinois, Sara Firm said, “Working with Eric Whitacre was a blast! He could have us rehearse the same section 50 times and we wouldn’t mind because each time he brought a new idea and new life to the music.”
During Saturday’s rehearsal, Whitacre held auditions for the coveted soprano and tenor solos in his famous piece, Cloudburst. Renee Willard was chosen from 25 sopranos who auditioned. Following her Sunday performance, Renee stated, “When it was all over I had tears in my eyes. All the hard work and preparation didn’t matter anymore. I had sung a solo at Lincoln Center in New York City, and I knew that nothing could take that away.” During the same piece, Matt Roush, YC senior general studies major from York, Nebraska, was featured on percussion.
The trip to Avery Fisher Hall (home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra) in Lincoln Center began September, 2008, when Concert Choir director Dr. Clark Roush sent audition recordings to DCINY. When he learned York College was among the choirs selected to participate, Roush said, “I was very excited to learn that we had been chosen. Eric Whitacre is America's leading choral composer. We've sung many of his pieces in the past and I knew this would be a great opportunity for my singers, the music program, and York College. Singing in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center was certainly an added feature.”
Throughout the school year students worked to raise travel funds. Following spring semester, performance preparation began with memorization of a difficult concert repertoire. Hours of individual practice prior to arrival in New York City ensured kudos for YC’s 28 young performers who took part.
Following the event, Phil Bravo, production manager for DCINY stated about the YC Concert Choir, "It was fantastic meeting you, and working with your group. The level of musicianship is certainly a compliment to your director, and you are simply a wonderful group of students to work with. I’m sure the college is very proud of them beyond just this performance." Because of their musicianship, the Concert Choir has a standing invitation to participate in any future DCINY event, without audition.
Summing up the concert and Concert Choir’s experience, Dr. Roush said, "What a glorious event! I got tears in my eyes and goose bumps all over watching our students perform with Eric in that venue. What an experience for them and for me! Two of our students were even highlighted. My singers seemed to love the experience, and I know it expanded their artistic horizons and choral palate. This was a great building block for next year, and another reminder that York College is a great choice for students who are serious musicians looking for strong performance opportunities."
One of those was Amanda Kline from Bellevue, Nebraska, "My reasoning for this trip was pretty simple: travel to New York and meet Eric Whitacre! What could be better? What I got from this experience was different from what I expected. As a music major, I was very fulfilled. I got to hear the thoughts of one of the greatest living composers. It was inspiring, and I hope to take some of the things he said to my future students. As a Christian, I was also very fulfilled. I had the opportunity to talk to many of my choirmates about religion and faith, more so than I would during the course of a year. It was a very uplifting time. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to experience NYC with my choir family."
Many months of preparation later, was it worth the effort? Zach Rush thinks so, “I remember reading Eric Whitacre’s blog posts and found the invitation to sing with him in New York. Immediately, I sent the information to Dr. Roush; the end result was pure greatness! Singing with Whitacre came with a hefty price tag, but the end result was worth so much more! Because of who we are as a choir, and who we have as a director, we are able to be among other "greats" in this country and sing for one of the Mozart’s of our time. What an incredible life-changing experience!”
In an unexpected opportunity before rehearsals began, the choir was able to connect with Caleb Hawley, and record a piece for his new CD. Hawley was a student at York College from 2003-2004, and currently resides in New York City working as a professional musician. Hawley went on from York to complete his music preparation at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
About the composer/conductor, Eric Whitacre: Born in 1970, Whitacre received no formal music instruction before age 18. He discovered his talent while singing in a choir at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He continued his education at The Juilliard School where he earned a Master of Music degree. Whitacre has since composed and published several pieces, with over 750,000 copies sold. He was distinguished in 2001 as the youngest composer to be awarded the Raymond W. Brock Memorial Commission by the American Choral Directors Association.
About the York College Concert Choir: A 60-voice choral ensemble performs an a capella repertoire each year along with a special Spring Works performance involving a major piece (or collection) for choir and accompaniment. The choir has performed throughout the United States, Canada and Japan. For more information about the choir or to request a performance for their 2009-10 season, contact Dr. Clark Roush.
For more information check out the following links:www.calebhawley.com