Chautauqua Lake Choral Students Perform In New York City

A group of Chautauqua Lake student musicians performed on March 25 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, the home of the New York Philharmonic. Eleven singers from Chautauqua Lake joined with six other choirs to perform “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” composed and conducted by Rene Clausen. Clausen’s five movements have been described as invoking the “excitement of the horse ride as well as the quiet of the streets, the beauty of the night, the history of the rickety old bell tower and the breathless excitement as the message is delivered.” The opportunity was arranged through Distinguished Concerts International New York.

Music teacher Jennifer Davis researched performance opportunities last summer and decided to pursue the Clausen concert in New York City. She was familiar with DCINY, because in 2010 she and her friend Rachel Curtin had participated in their concert version of Eric Whitacre’s musical, “Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings.”

She submitted a recording of the secondary school chorus for review, and the choir was accepted into the program. Then the performance opportunity was presented to chorus members. The students who chose to participate – all members of the select Chorale – began preparing the piece in January, often practicing after school but also working on their own at home.

The Chautauqua Lake Music Boosters subsidized the trip by paying the registration fee for each performer. The individual students and their families paid for travel, lodging and other expenses. Davis and school nurse Peg Kelwaski accompanied the students to New York.

“There were so many wonderful things about this trip,” said Davis, “but what I loved most was the fact that we were in New York City to rehearse and perform. Rehearsals were typically four hours a day, which is long, but it left us with enough free time to take advantage of all the culture and excitement New York has to offer.”

In addition to preparing and performing the Clausen piece, the group attended a full concert of works by Eric Whitacre at Carnegie Hall; took in a performance of The Phantom of the Opera, which recently celebrated 25 years on Broadway; and visited the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Empire State Building. Some of the group also shopped at Mood Designer Fabrics, popularized by the television series Project Runway.

“The best part of the trip for me was singing at Avery Fisher Hall,” said junior Mariana Mathewson. “Working with Dr. Clausen was amazing, and knowing that we were part of something so big.”

Sophomore Lilyan Kates concurred that “singing with such a wonderful and talented group of musicians” was remarkable.

For many of the students, just being in New York City was a unique experience. One of best parts of the trip for Lily was “walking through the city and realizing how small I really am in the grand scheme of things.” She found the subway confusing at times, and the very large city blocks surprised her.

Mariana also enjoyed the big-city experience. “I had a great time just walking around the city, feeling the atmosphere and people watching,” she explained, noting with surprise how quickly time passed on the four-day trip.

Both girls plan to major in music in college. “Since I want to go into music education, this trip really reinforced my plans to study vocal music in college, and hopefully sing in more mass choirs like this,” said Mariana.

Commenting on the experience she termed “fabulous,” Lily added, “My plans to major in music are absolutely reinforced. No question about it.”

DCINY was founded by Iris Derke, general director, and Jonathan Griffith, artistic director and principal conductor. The creative producing entity is a talent incubator, a star-maker and a presenter of broadly accessible, world-class musical entertainment.