WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- Brookland-Cayce High School Honors Choir members are used to performing on a stage -- but perhaps not one this big.
Students, along with choral director Wendi Humphries, will be heading to New York City for a performance this Sunday, April 7, at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The choir will be performing with Distinguished Concerts in New York under the direction Dr. Alicia Walker of the University of South Carolina’s School of Music -- a guest conductor for the Lincoln Center performance, alongside conductor James Meaders.
Several other Columbia area choral groups also are part of the performance, among them high schools Dreher, Sumter, Gilbert and Blythewood and the University of South Carolina’s University Chorus. Brookland-Cayce students have been participating in joint rehearsals with all of the participants.
Brookland-Cayce’s Honors Choir is composed of 10th-12th grade students who passed an audition to join the choir, Humphries said. Among those heading to New York City are Claire Adkins, James Amaker, Henry Barry, Brady Branham, Savannah Brazell, Anna Burkett, Sarah Burr, Shemar Carr, Cheyanne Chambers, Alivia Cunningham, Caroline Daniels, Megan Darazs, Thaddeus Davis, Virginia Demsey, Matthew Edwards, Callie Fisher, Lyndsay Gregory, MacKenzie Hafer, Sierra Hayes, Elisa Heffner, Hannah Hoffman, Matias Isaac, Megan Jacobs, Bekah Kelly, Rachel O’Dell, Megan Peachey, Ke’Jauna Pough, Hannah Rea, Savannah Ryals, Breanna Sheedy, Allie Paige Thornton, Brayden Waters, Jade Watford, Kelsy White and Samantha Woods.
This is the third group of choral students Humphries has taken to New York City, with other previous groups performing at Carnegie Hall and Backstage Broadway. Humphries, who is in her 35th year of teaching and her 12th at Brookland Cayce, talked recently about the upcoming performance.
Q: How did the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall come about?
Humphries: Dr. Alicia Walker, director of choral activities at the USC School of Music, extended a personal invitation to the BC Honors Choir to participate in this performance. In 2013, the Brookland-Cayce Honors Choir participated in the SC American Choral Directors Choral Festival. Dr. Walker was one of the adjudicators. After hearing our choir, she extended an invitation to join her for her Carnegie Hall debut in 2014. Knowing that the students would be prepared, we received the invitation for this performance.
Q: What are the musical selections being performed?
Humphries: The piece we will be performing is “Mass in Blue by Will Todd,” a liturgical Mass composed/arranged in jazz style.
Q: Talk a little bit about this particular group that’s performing. Are there a lot of experienced singers among them?
Humphries: Although all choir members are upperclassmen, there are only seven seniors in this group. This will be the first major performance/trip for over half of the group. This is not a very experienced choir, but they have the desire to step out of their comfort zone and perform nontraditional music. They are up for the challenge of singing in Latin and have embraced the musical genre.
Q: How often have you and the students been rehearsing?
Humphries: We have been rehearsing since January during chorus class. Dr. Walker has required attendance at six evening combined rehearsals held at the School of Music for all choir participants. These rehearsals are 2 hours in length.
Q: How long will you be in New York? Are there other things you hope to do while you’re there?
Humphries: We depart at 12:01 a.m. April 4 and return the evening April 8. The trip is jam-packed. The students have three days of rehearsals, scheduled for 4-5 hours in length. When not in rehearsals, the students will see the Broadway musicals “Phantom of the Opera” and “Come From Away.” They will also tour the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Rockefeller Center, and Top of the Rock. Also included is a night harbor dinner cruise with views of the city skyline and a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The students also get time to visit Times Square.
Q: What are you most excited for these students to experience?
Humphries: Being able to perform in this venue, the Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts, with a live professional orchestra. This opportunity would not be available at the school level.
Q: You’ve taken other groups to New York. What is the biggest thing kids get out of the experience?
Humphries: There is a camaraderie established within the choir when they travel. The other highlight for students is to experience and see outside of their community and state. Some of the students have never been away from home for this length of time and others have not traveled out of state. It allows our students to experience other cultures and see that there is another “whole big world” out there, outside of Cayce-West Columbia.
Q: What’s next for this group after the Lincoln Center performance?