Last night I traveled to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in St. Albans to hear the B.F.A. St. Albans Chorus and Orchestra perform Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” What a treat it was to see 100 student singers from that school perform so admirably under the direction of their Choral Director Armand Messier! This High School chorus boasted 13 tenors, 17 Basses (30 men in all), 37 Altos and 33 Sopranos, for a total of 100 voices. The orchestra of 18 comprised many professional players from our area, and Claire Hungerford and Evelyn Kwanza performed the solos.
I am a strong advocate of performing major works with orchestra with high school choirs! This is just one of the many ways that we can expose our students to the wealth of choral/orchestral literature that is available and quite accessible to the high school voice. In my opinion it could not have been done any better than what I witnessed last night. Armand had prepared the chorus meticulously, actually to the point where I suspect it was memorized. The orchestra was capable and complemented the students, and the the singers has the opportunity to observe and hear professional, mature soloists perform. The visual and acoustical setting could have been no better; St. Mary’s Church is a beautiful setting for a performance, and the acoustics are warm, reverberant (although not too much so) and supportive. The experience that Mr. Messier supplied these students will stick with them for a lifetime. I am sure that for many it will be their only experience with an extended work of this quality; for others it will instill a curiosity for more.
The community turned out in full force tor this performance; the church was FULL, and that is a very substantial crowd for a performance! There was an extended standing ovation for this effort, and the pride of the community and parents was apparent on every face. I was keenly aware of the students as the audience offered their applause; many of them were quite excited and pleased, and some looked perplexed, as in “wow, they really liked it!!” But it was apparent to this listener that this effort was a total qualified success, and accolades should be extended to the orchestra, soloists, singers, and most importantly to Armand Messier for his confidence in the students, his steadfast persistence and belief in this project (I am sure there were times when he may have wondered “why do I do this to myself?), and all the hard work and commitment that he poured into this effort. These things do not happen by themselves; indeed, it takes so much planning and work.
I drove to St. Mary’s, parked my car and walked to the church. As I rounded the corner to the entrance I was greeted by a most pleasant sight. It was a beautiful evening last night, and students in concert dress were outside on the lawn, under the trees and on the steps of the church. They were talking, chatting, enjoying the sunshine and watching a steady procession of audience members into the sanctuary. Everything seemed orderly and so very “right.” When this happens, I KNOW that we are doing the right things with our students. I would urge all of us to do something like this every 4 years or so. I know how cumbersome the project can seem at times, but the final outcome is well worth the effort.
I was seated with Donna Costes, a long time advocate for the performance of quality choral literature with our students. After the performance I said something to her, and she made a comment to me about the value of good choral literature. I tell you, ultimately students do not need some of the drivel that qualifies as good music these days. I really do believe that if we give our singers a diet of good literature they will respond. The music really speaks for itself.
Bravo to Armand Messier and his forces. You did yourself, your school, your community and Vivaldi proud yesterday afternoon! I look forward to your next offering!