Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Oct. 31, 2008

A real chorus

I was really looking forward to the vocal concert at Riley County High School earlier this month. Youngest daughter Katie had practiced in her room almost every night since the beginning of school.

But new music teacher Janie Anthony didn't want it to just be another choir concert. She wanted the audience to really enjoy themselves and while she knew parents would come just to hear their son or daughter perform, for them to be really entertained would take a bit more.

So in addition to wanting her students to sound good, she wanted them to look good as well. That meant new outfits.

To raise the money, she organized a "bakery blitz" - a fund raiser where students sold cinnamon rolls, bierocks and cookies from the Alma Bakery in Alma, Kansas. Choir members also worked in the concession stand during the homecoming game.

The night of the concert, husband Art and Katie left early so he could set up the sound system and she could practice with her fellow choir members. I picked Mom up at her house in Manhattan and we arrived about half an hour before the concert was to begin.

I was hoping to just sit back and enjoy the concert, but Art had other plans for me. He had already set up one video camera to capture the concert from a distance. He was in the process of setting up another one in the bleachers when we arrived. He waved me over and said he wanted me to operate that camera, zooming in so that individual performers would be more than mere dots.

I positioned myself behind the camera and waited for the concert to begin, watching as first the floor chairs filled and then people began climbing into the bleachers.

I had counted around 200 people in the audience by the time the choir - boys dressed in tuxedos and girls in black floor-length satin dresses with pearls - entered.

I was already impressed and the music hadn't even begun!

The theme for the program was "Around the World," and what a whirlwind trip it was. The singers sang songs in several languages - Latin, French, Hebrew, Italian, Bemba and English - and from several countries - Brazil, France, Israel, Italy, Zambia, Scotland and Ireland.

And they didn't just sing! At times they danced, swayed and clapped to pieces that ranged from joyous to silly to haunting. Between selections, English teacher Carolyn Hendricks gave the background on each song. A slide show accompanied each piece, showing images from the related country.

When the program was over, thunderous applause greeted the choir. It was the first time I have been to such a school program when I felt they really needed an encore number.

But even without an encore piece, the choir, along with piano accompanist Frank Schmeidler, RCHS band director Adam Keller, violinist Kristin Mulready-Stone, instrumentalist Greg Barnett along with a hand from Sterling High School's vocal director Clark Comley, had really put on a great show.

But maybe Katie said it best. While I took Mom home, she stayed to help put the equipment away and then rode home with Art. She mentioned how she was generally pleased with the show, but then added, "Gee, I almost feel like I'm in a real chorus."


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