Sweet music: Berryville, Green Forest choirs qualify for state performance
By Haley Schichtl
Berryville and Green Forest choir students have qualified to participate in the State Festival at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway in April.
Berryville students Mason Hurt and Paige McGehee qualified for State Solo and Ensemble at the Region Solo and Ensemble Saturday, Feb. 29, at Rogers Heritage High School.
Both Berryville high school choirs — Encore and Donna Voce — participated in the Region Choral Performance Assessment (CPA) Friday, Feb. 28, at Bentonville West High School, and the Encore choir qualified for state, receiving a “superior” rating and first division ensemble title. Donna Voce also did well, receiving an “excellent” rating and second division ensemble title.
Encore is Berryville’s select choir, while Donna Voce is for female students. The latter will begin accepting male students next year, and the name will be changed to Vivace, which means “lively,” rather than Donna Voce, which means “women’s choir.”
Although the performances are not competitions between choirs, McGehee said the students have to get into a competitive spirit, pushing themselves to do better each year.
Hurt said the Region Solo and Ensemble was much smaller than CPA and was divided into different rooms. In their room, Hurt was the first to perform and McGehee was the second.
“We were expecting a classroom, but they brought us into their auditorium,” McGehee said. “It’s a much bigger space and made me a little nervous because you have to kind of fill up that space.”
She said sight reading was the toughest part of the assessment, because participants don’t know the piece they have to perform until they get there, and then are given only three minutes to go over it before singing it.
Students Jacqueline Diaz-Lopez and Emmory Morris are in the Encore choir and joined in Donna Voce for the assessment because the choir wasn’t big enough. Diaz-Lopez said they didn’t get as much rehearsal time with the other members of that choir.
“Considering that there weren’t a lot of members and that we barely had any rehearsal time with them, we got a really good score,” Diaz-Lopez said.
She said the few weeks leading up to the assessments were very stressful.
“Half of us felt like we weren’t going to make it,” Diaz-Lopez said. “We were just feeling so many emotions.”
The Encore choir getting “first division” means they were ranked with ones, the highest score possible, in every category. They hope to do the same thing at the state level, though that will be more challenging.
“If we get straight ones, then we’ll be recognized as being a top choir state-wide,” Encore member Nathan Edwards said.
“That means we can prove to people we’re not just a little group of kids that like to sing; we’re strong and dedicated,” Diaz-Lopez said.
Diaz-Lopez said all the pieces they will perform at state sound very soft.
“All three pieces have a calming, inner peace kind of theme,” she said.
The students said performing in a choir is a better experience than singing separately.
“I love singing, and being surrounded by people who love doing the same thing is really encouraging,” Hurt said.
“Some of these gorgeous choral pieces, you wouldn’t discover on your own,” McGehee said. “You have your sopranos, altos, tenors and basses and they all just come together and it’s just a gorgeous swell of sound. It’s the best thing ever.”
“You have to be in tune with each other so that you start at the same time,” Morris said. “It warms your heart to know you’ve got everybody there by your side.”
The Green Forest chamber choir also received a superior rating at its assessment Wednesday, Feb. 26 in Mountain Home, and will get to go to the State Festival in Conway.
Choir member Mya Galvan said on the day of their assessment, there were 17 other schools performing, who all watched them during their performance.
“We were pretty well-prepared so we weren’t super nervous about it,” Mason Dunham-McCreary said. “For the sight reading, we were kind of nervous, but we actually did pretty good.”
He said someone plays a key on piano so they know what key to sing in.
“You start with the do-re-mi, to make sure you’re on pitch with each other,” Dunham-McCreary said. “You start in a certain key and then all the notes will be the same. … All the boys were together, and the girls were split up in two groups.”
Sam Holtkamp said it’s now time for the choir to start preparing for state.
“We’re adding another piece to our repertoire,” Holtkamp said. “We did a piece called The Lord is My Shepherd –– it was accompanied by piano.”
“The other one was a cappella — it was Latin,” Galvan said.
Jadine Biggs said their pianist was not able to play at their assessment, which made them a bit nervous.
“Our pianist happened to fall and messed up her hand,” Jadine Biggs said. “We were very grateful to have the Mountain Home Methodist organist, though we only rehearsed with her once and it was a little nerve-wracking.”