BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — On the morning of March 30, the singers of Shenendehowa’s Mostly A Cappella choir will board a bus bound for New York City, where they will be one of 10 choirs performing at Carnegie Hall, the legendary music venue where so many distinguished artists have presented extraordinary music and made their names.
It will be the only choir singing its own program — the other nine have been combined and are singing under two conductors, so there will be a total of three performances.
“It’s not just that they are going to get to sing in this great hall,” music teacher Heather Baird said. “The concert they are going to get to hear, conducted by some the country’s finest, I’m excited they will be able to experience and listen to that.”
Two-thirds of the group is seniors, the rest juniors. There are tryouts each year, and it is rare for a sophomore to be chosen. First, the students must sing Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus, do a level 6 sight reading, do well in their music lessons and demonstrate leadership. If they complete all these tasks, well, they’re in.
“Every year, I have a fabulous group — the level of musicianship is very high — but this group has incredible determination and motivation,” Baird said. “I’m quite in awe of how hard they have worked to make this program all that it can be.”
The Carnegie Hall event isn’t a competition, but instead a celebration of music.
Shen’s Mostly A Cappella did not seek out this honor; it was contacted by production companies in New York — one had seen the group on YouTube and another had received a tip from an alumnus.
“Through fundraising, it was able to work out financially, and we are so excited that we have the opportunity to perform at such a beautiful venue,” senior Katelyn Crall said. “We continue to work hard inside and outside of school in preparation for the event.”
The program is a mixture of songs from different genres and eras to show off the group’s full range. The members all agree the most difficult number is “Prayer of the Children.” Between attempting to stay all together during the entrances and exits, the length of the piece and the pure emotion, it’s definitely tricky. However, none of the songs are easy; it takes a lot of skill to have perfect harmony, maintain stamina and display stage presence.
Unfortunately, their peers haven’t really shared in their jubilation.
“The gravity of how cool of an experience this is, is lost on our friends,” senior Jessica Bristol said. “They can’t appreciate it.”
Most of these students have been involved in vocal music since they were young, but one young man just began his musical journey this year.
“As someone who just joined chorus this year and got placed in this group, I’m really honored to have been given this opportunity my first year, and I’m really excited to be working with such talented musicians,” senior Jake DiMirra said. “I take AP music theory and we were doing sight reading, and my teacher was like, ‘Hey, you know how to sing,’ and then I auditioned and was placed into this group.”
The seniors agree this momentous occasion is the perfect way to end their Shenendehowa years.
“Being a senior-heavy group, it’s really incredible to go out this way,” Peter Beidl said. “This is how we get to leave. We went to Carnegie Hall, we did that.”
“When we get older and look back on high school, we will be able to say that we sang at Carnegie Hall,” Crall said. “I think that’s something we are all going to remember.”
There is one person in particular the singers feel deserves a great deal of gratitude.
“If it wasn’t for Mrs. Baird, most of us wouldn’t be pursuing music in college,” senior Nicole Rizzo said. “She helped a lot of us find our voice and gave us that passion and drive to make music.”