MCHS Choir Tops In National Choral Fest: Trip Reaffirms Choir's Status
When Mason City High School Concert Choir Director Joel Everist raised his hand for quiet amid the 80 choir members eating lunch at The Julliard School in New York City on Sunday afternoon, members quickly fell silent, knowing this was the call for which they had been waiting.
"Everybody got quiet and Mr. Everist left the room," said Anna Faust, 18. "And I was thinking, oh my gosh, oh my gosh ... then he came back and my heart began to race."
And then, the news: The choir had been told it earned a top solo spot in the final concert of the National Invitational Choral Festival.
There were cheers all around, she said.
"Everyone wanted that first place, to keep that first place tradition going," she explained. "That's what we do."
Of 18 choirs who competed, eight choirs were chosen for the honor of singing solos during the festival concert Sunday evening at the Riverside Cathedral, a historic landmark.
"It shows that hard work really pays off," said senior Noah Huisman, 18. "I was ecstatic."
The choir spent three days in New York City. Although the students were able to see some sights, most of the time was spent in clinics and competition. The group returned home Monday.
Mason City Superintendent Anita Micich, a chaperone for the trip, was impressed with how the students behaved and their direction by Everist. "How they represented themselves, the school and the community it was just heads and shoulders above anyone else there. And their performance, you just don't know what this competition is like. I am so thrilled for them, and what an extraordinary teaching moment for them."
"I was so proud of them," agreed Everist.
"Choir members are close," said senior Lyndsey Hurst, 17. That makes doing well even more important. "No one wants to let the others down," said Hurst.
"This means everything," agreed fellow senior Zach Newman, 17. "The choir is like our family. It's just so exciting.
The judges had lots of praise for the Mohawks.
Judge Lynne Gackle, professor at the University of Southern Florida at Tampa, praised the choir's energy and expression of their singing.
Fellow judge Edith Copley, professor at Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff, agreed: "What a wonderful, intimate sound," she said.
Mason City Concert Choir Back To The Big Apple
The 80-member group of juniors and seniors, under the direction of Joel Everist, will be among 17 high school choirs to appear in the National Invitational Choral Festival, also known as the Festival of Gold April 1-6.
The by-invitation-only event features choirs that have been given superior or first placings in the past year. The choir took every top placing at the Heritage Music Festival in Chicago in 2008.
Clinic sessions will be held at Saint Bartholomews Cathedral with the final evening concert at Riverside Cathedral in Manhattan.
Although the event is not judged in the competitive sense, the top scoring choirs will give the coveted solo performance during the festival concert, at Riverside Cathedral.
"If we are fortunate enough to be chosen for the solo performance ... it will be very exciting since the breathtakingly beautiful Riverside Cathedral is renowned for some of the best acoustics in the country," said Everist, "It is the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often preached."
"It is so exciting," agreed Erika Pohlman, a MCHS senior. "As a 17-year-old, getting to sing at these places, well, that's just amazing."
"To be considered the best in the nation, it creates a lot of pride. It will be glad we're being given the chance to show our stuff," said Abbie Gobeli, 17, a senior.
Students will work with several noted directors and clinicians, including Weston Noble of Wartburg College, James Jordan of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., and Anton Armstrong of St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minn.
Choirs are from Minnesota, Nebraska, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oregon, Wisconsin, Washington, Utah and California.
Students will also get a chance to visit several sites, including the Tribute World Trade Center Visitor Center, a choice about which Everist is particularly excited.
"We treat our trips as an extension of the classroom that will provide educational opportunities beyond the walls of our building," he said. "The chance to visit Ellis Island, museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are chances not all students have."
"This also gives us the opportunity to learn in clinic sessions with several of the finest choral directors in the world," Everist said. "These trips push us to work harder all year long since we will compete with some of the best choirs in the country."
This marks the sixth time the choir has visited New York City. The choir first performed at Carnegie Hall in 1995 and returned three times to perform at Lincoln Center and two times at the National Invitational. The choir has also performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
No school funding is used for trips and costs are paid for through fundraisers.
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