Photo of Kentwood students in front of Carnegie Hall. Submitted photo.

Photo of Kentwood students in front of Carnegie Hall. Submitted photo.

Big voices in the Big Apple

Kentwood High Choir students perform at Carnegie Hall in New York

The Kentwood High School Choir enjoyed an experience of a lifetime by going to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall on May 25.

The choir director, Daisy Emans, said the opportunity to go to New York for this performance came from a renowned composer.

“I think it was eight years ago, we commissioned a piece from the composer Eric Barnum and we worked with (him) before and (he) invited us along with two other choirs to Carnegie Hall to perform the premiere of his work – ‘1,000 Red Birds’ – So we were the only high school group there. It was Eric’s choir from University of Wisconsin and Troy University, so three choirs put together,” Emans said.

Barnum invited Kentwood in May 2017 to perform this year to premiere his work, according to Emans.

The concert the students sang in was called “Vocal Colors.”

Emans said she thinks the concert was called this because there was a range of ages performing at Carnegie Hall that night. Before her students went onto perform, there was a 300-person choir of middle school-aged singers, and then there was Kentwood – the only high school – and then college singers. There was also a third act where community member sang as well.

“I think you got to hear the range of voices – the spectrum,” she said.

Although this is Kentwood’s first time going to Carnegie Hall to perform, this is not its first time traveling to sing .

“Kentwood Choirs are pretty active in music outside of the classroom. They go to a lot of competitions. We go on tour every year so there is a sense of tradition at Kentwood where you do travel for music every spring, and every year it’s different, this year it got to be Carnegie Hall. Last year, we got to perform on the main stage at Disneyland. So new experiences every year for all of the students,” Emans said.

Emans said once they got to New York, they only had eight hours to rehearse with Barnum before the show.

She said she was not super nervous about this limited rehearsal time with the composer himself because her students do a lot of rehearsing on their own times and at school.

“It was more joyful than it was nerve-racking. To be on that stage, it’s not just talent, it’s also hard work that they’ve put into learn the music, time that they have taken from their lives to go to the rehearsals,” she said.

On top of rehearsing, another aspect that helped all of the singers perform well in front of a full-house of spectators was getting to perform under a composer that wrote the songs that they were singing.

“The composer got to share with us his thoughts and texts and what he thought the music meant, so it was kind of like it blossomed under his leadership I guess you can say,” Emans said.”When you sing for a composer that wrote the music, you get to understand from his perspective why this happened here, what does this represent, rather than interpreting it on your own and making up your own version of it at home.”

According to Emans, this experience was very “humbling and surreal.” She went onto say it was an honor to be able to represent this area over in New York.

“There’s so much history involved with the building itself, but even Carnegie Hall aside, getting to work with the composer and rehearsing with the composer was also a great experience for our students,” she said.

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