P-R students selected for state chorus festival
Several Pine-Richland High School singers and one teacher are taking their talents on the road this winter.
Seniors Bryan Bails, Seamus Daniello, Spencer Harris, and Lucy Hess, juniors Thomas Andrews, Olivia McGeary, and Claire Tobin and sophomore Kristen Donahoe were all selected for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 1 Chorus Festival, which will be held at Mt. Lebanon High School Feb. 6-8 and culminates in a public concert on Feb. 8.
In addition, high school choral director Lee Rickard will be the guest conductor for the Haverford County Middle School Honors Choir Concert in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 11.
Students audition for the district chorus, and being chosen is no small feat. Roughly 400 10th, 11th and 12th graders from 60 schools across the five Southwestern Pennsylvania counties auditioned for 160 spots, Rickard said.
Once selected, the students receive the music they’ll be performing and are expected to know it by the time the three-day festival begins.
“Those eight kids and I will work after school or find rehearsal time and I’ll teach them the music,” Rickard said. “The expectation is to show up knowing it so that when they get there it’s all about putting it together and doing things at a really high level.”
The music and number of pieces vary from year to year, Rickard said, but generally highlight different backgrounds, styles and influences and it’s all quite challenging.
“Most of them are pieces that most schools won’t have the ability to perform on their own,” he said. “The idea is that the more advanced students are able to do a higher level, more collegiate level, of work because you’re taking the very best out of the five counties.”
The opportunity to work at a higher level than usual is just one of the positives Rickard says these district ensembles offer. He’s served as guest conductor at a number of such festivals in recent years as well as watched many a student from Pine-Richland take part in festivals ranging from district through state levels.
“It’s an enormous amount of fun, mostly because you’re working with the really top level singers and the cool thing is that they’re all coming from different schools,” he said. “So many times in school functions we have them set up — especially in sports — where it’s one school versus another and they’re rivals. Rarely do kids get the opportunity to do things cooperatively among schools. It’s a chance to expose students to different schools, different people and different ways of doing things. I find that an extraordinarily neat thing for kids to be able to participate in.”
Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.