World-class performers

Juniors and seniors from Westminster Choir College gather in the Playhouse during a typical rehearsal session.  The renowned ensemble will have its first major performance on Oct. 3 in Carnegie Hall.By Laura Mortkowitz

While most students involved with clubs may be lucky enough to perform in front of the Rider community, the students of Westminster Choir College (WCC) will have the chance to perform with four major orchestras this semester.

The Westminster Symphonic Choir is composed of WCC juniors and seniors as well as the first-year graduate students. According to the Westminster Web site, the Symphonic Choir has recorded and performed with major orchestras under virtually every internationally known conductor of the last 75 years.

In addition, the Symphonic Choir is “recognized as one of the world’s leading choral ensembles,” according to both the Westminster Web site and the Carnegie Hall Web site.

For the second year, Dr. Joe Miller, director of choral activities, will conduct the symphonic choir as it practices for these performances. Some graduate students have the chance to be assistant conductors.

The Symphonic Choir is a class that meets four times a week and is a requirement for the students. This year the choir will perform with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra. These orchestras make this a great experience, according to senior Brittany Hines-Hill.

“We’ve never had this many different orchestras that were performing within one year,” Miller said. “So this is the largest choral-orchestral year in the history of the school.”

It’s tradition at Westminster to perform with the major symphony orchestras of the world, according to Miller. Four major orchestras will perform with the Symphonic Choir as well as professional soloists.

“Most of our engagements are the major venues,” said Miller. “One reason is because Symphonic Choir is very large — about 200 voices.”

The Symphonic Choir will get the chance to perform in Carnegie Hall in New York City. The music choices are all pieces by Gustav Mahler with the exception of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

“Sometimes we are just asked to do a piece and sometimes we are in collaboration in what piece to do,” Miller said.

The choir students did not have much preparation with big ensembles from last year. Hines-Hill said this year will be the most incredible for all the students involved.

“The experience last year for the choir was completely different,” she said. “All of us, we’re going from a year where we did pretty much nothing to a year with back-to-back performances with the most incredible orchestras in the world. I’m so thrilled to be involved with this.”

The choir gives the students the chance to understand singing with an instrumental ensemble. Hines-Hill said the experience helps her learn how to train her voice to be quieter or louder to make the best sound for the group. These performances make her more excited than nervous, she said.

“This is something we as a choir train for everyday,” said Hines-Hill. “So this is us getting to launch our product, so to speak. If it were a solo experience, I’d be terrified.”

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