May 22, 2013 11:35:16 AM
Thirty-one members of the Columbus Girlchoir will fly to New York Thursday to fulfill every singer's dream: performing at Carnegie Hall.
The girls, accompanied by 13 parents, will practice for two days before taking the stage at the May 26 Mid-America Concert. They're also booked for the Broadway show "Wicked" and for a night-time cruise around Manhattan.
Music old and new will be on the program, said director Cherry Dunn, who founded the Columbus Girlchoir in 2004.
"It's a challenging program, and we will make up a big part of the choir," she said. "But we have been practicing well and are ready to represent our city and state in that wonderful house."
A fall campaign, the group's annual Kitchen Tour in April and grants from the Columbus Arts Council and the Mississippi Arts Commission raised much of the $70,000 needed for the trip, which comes at the invitation of Mid-America conductor Cheryl Dupont. She directs the New Orleans Crescent City Choral Festival, where the Columbus girls sang in 2009 and 2011.
"Then when Mid-America invited her to put together a Carnegie Hall concert for their 30th anniversary, she invited us," Dunn said.
"That's right," Dupont said from her New Orleans office. "I thought the Columbus choir would enjoy the Carnegie Hall experience. And I know they are accomplished enough to perform the repertoire very well. That's why I invited them."
A quick sampling of the local singers shows that music tops their Big Apple list.
"I am looking forward to singing in Carnegie Hall because it is an incredible opportunity for us," said alto Emma Robertson, a junior at Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. "I'm looking forward to seeing the city because I fell in love with it the last time I went."
Alto Lindsey Killebrew, also an MSMS junior, is ready for Broadway.
"Seeing the Broadway performance is what I am most looking forward to," she said. "Seeing my favorites there will be unbelievable."
And Columbus High School soprano Rachel Wheeler is ready "for that final performance and the Broadway musical. I have always wanted to visit Carnegie Hall and never thought I would be able to see a Broadway production."
Asked the best thing about the Columbus Girlchoir, Robertson said, "The choir is a fantastic outlet for young women who are passionate about music and vocal performance."
Added Wheeler, "The best thing is that so many girls from so many places can come together and make beautiful music."
All three named as their Carnegie favorite "Ani Ma'amin," a Hebrew affirmation of faith sung by many Jews as they were forced into Nazi gas chambers during World War II, giving it "a heart-wrenching history," Robertson said.
"The meaning behind this song is incredibly powerful," Killebrew said. "I am honored to sing it."
Dunn said the choir's weekly practices at First United Methodist Church stress technique, choral style and music fundamentals. She added that the choir will need them all for the "Ani Ma'amin" and the other New York music by Bob Chilcott, Giovanni Pergolesi and Karl Jenkins.
"'This Day' by Bob Chilcott is a good challenge for us," the director said. "Not only is it 10 minutes long, but it also has some unusual rhythms, like seven-eighths time. His choices of texts are fabulous -- they run from Emily Dickinson to John Henry Newman."
The Columbus Girlchoir will join singers from Canada, Louisiana, South Carolina, California and New Jersey for Sunday night's Mid-America concert, then head out for a Manhattan boat trip before returning home Monday.