A school choir in regional New South Wales has been invited to perform at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall.
Choristers at the St Columba Anglican School in Port Macquarie have been invited by Distinguished Concerts International New York City to be part of the United States premiere performance of famous composer/conductor Paul Mealor’s Requiem in November.
Choir director Marie Van Gend said it was an incredible opportunity for a group of country kids.
“It’s life changing. These kids really appreciate music, but these are country kids and for a lot of them it will be the first time they’ve been overseas,” she said.
“We get to sing in one of the greatest performance spaces in the world, being conducted by one of the greatest composers in the world, surrounded by incredible singers from all over the world. It’s just extraordinary.
“These are mostly untrained kids and they just rise to this musical challenge and they love it.”
Choir discovered through YouTube video
Port Macquarie's St Columba Anglican School Choir has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. The high school choir was discovered after a concert organiser saw a video shared on social media- they'll become one of the only school choirs in Australia ever to perform at the prestigious venue.
Posted by ABC Mid North Coast on Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Performing arts director Mark Brown said the school had been discovered after a concert organiser came across a video of the school’s chamber choir online.
“They came upon our choir through seeing a YouTube video of a previous performance and then linking it back to our school’s website and seeing all the amazing stuff our choirs do,” he said.
“I’m still in shock. It’s an amazing opportunity and a testament to the amazing work our kids have done.”
Ms Van Gend said when she received an unexpected email invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall, she thought the whole thing was a joke.
“It wasn’t until they phoned me from New York and confirmed it was a real thing and described what the opportunity was that I was really excited,” she said.
Students bursting with excitement
Choir member and Year 11 student Sequoia O’Brien said it was a special moment when they were told they had been invited to sing at Carnegie Hall.
“It was unbelievable. We were all sitting together when we found out and everyone was gasping and trying not to squeal,” she said.
“We were all so excited. It’s an amazing thing to be recognised like this and have this opportunity.”
Harley Coleman is also part of the senior chamber choir, and said the fact they were going to perform in one of the world’s great performance spaces still felt surreal.
“It’s one of those things you see bigger schools getting, but we are from Port Macquarie and we are heading over to New York. I think the gravity of this is incredible.”
Harley said during his younger school years he had his doubts about being in the choir, but had never looked back.
“I have not regretted it at all. It’s so incredible and the music we do is incredibly challenging, and I think more than the musical challenge, it’s really a family.
“It’s a bit of a community. You have lots of different demographics of kids coming from all over the school, from little Year 7s to Year 12s all just hanging out together.”
Preparations underway for 2018 performance
The choir will perform with other choristers from around the world, as part of a Distinguished Concerts Singers International Choir, in the Carnegie Hall concert on November 11.
Mr Mealor, whose work was performed at the royal wedding ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, will conduct the performance.
Ms Van Gend said her students were more than ready for the challenge ahead, and leading them forward had been an immensely rewarding experience.
“Working with kids like this, it’s a gift and I am grateful on a daily basis really,” she said.
“You get to go to places emotionally and intellectually that you really can’t experience in any other form, and there seems to be no limit to the challenges these kids can rise to.”