Sweet Harmony: BV choir program hits all the right notes

Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Berryville High School sent 11 performers to the Arkansas Choral Directors Association’s Region 6 All-Region clinic, the largest group to represent the school at that level since 1980. Participating were (from left) Alessandra Moreno, Kaitlyn Morrell, Virginia Grace Vanderwarker, Jerry Carter, Ekira Hernandez, Nolan Bryant, Marissa Richter, Andrew Engel, Tayvyn Putnam, Nathan Edwards and Ashton Blok. Moreno, Edwards, Bryant, Engel and Blok qualified to audition for All-State choir in February.
Submitted photo

The COVID-19 pandemic has made things difficult for many people. Especially hard-hit have been performance groups, from community and school choirs and bands to professional musicians.

Between restrictions on large gatherings, limited rehearsal times, quarantines and mask mandates, finding the opportunities to rehearse — much less perform — has been a real challenge.

At Berryville High School, the music programs have nevertheless forged ahead, with the marching band earning several honors in the fall. Not to be outdone, the school’s vocal programs have also been racking up recognition and awards of their own.

“We’ve got a lot to brag about this year, and I’m pretty pleased to say that,” Berryville choir director Benjamin Winn said.

Earlier this year, Winn received word that Berryville’s Encore ensemble choir had been chosen to participate in a special performance at Carnegie Hall in June.

Winn, a Springdale native in his eighth year as a music teacher, said this trip, which includes plans to visit Broadway and a cruise through New York Harbor around Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, will be the farthest distance he’s ever taken a group to perform.

“We kind of hit the ground running going into the fall,” Winn said. “In the spring, we were invited by [Dr. Lorissa Mason, director of choral activities for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock] to travel with her choir to perform in New York City at Carnegie Hall. And so that has been one primary focus that we’ve been working on since we came back.”

More recently, Winn received word that five of his top singers qualified to compete for a place in the All-State choir. The five qualifiers — alto Alessandra Moreno, tenors Nathan Edwards and Nolan Bryant and bass singers Andrew Engel and Ashton Blok — represent the largest group from Berryville to qualify for All-State consideration since 1980.

Those five singers were part of a larger group of 11 students — the largest group Berryville High has ever taken — who represented Berryville High School at the Arkansas Choral Directors Association’s Region 6 All-Region clinic.

“It was really cool that we were able to take that many students this year,” Winn said.

Berryville High School choir director Benjamin Winn was named the Arkansas Choral Directors Association’s Region 6 Senior High Director of the Year during the All-Region clinic in November.
File photo

During the Region 6 event, Winn was recognized as the Regional Senior High Director of the Year, an award voted on by all regional directors.

“To qualify for the award that I received, you basically have to have been teaching in the school district that you’re at for five years, which this is my seventh year at Berryville,” Winn said. “You have to have a group that has qualified for state at least three out of those five years and you have to have shown growth in your program over the course of those five years.”

That hasn’t been a problem at Berryville. Winn said when he started in 2018, the program consisted of two high school choirs with a total of 40 members. Now, there are six high school and middle school choirs totaling 220 members.

“He’s doing a really good job for us,” said Berryville superintendent Owen Powell. “He has our kids performing at a high level and he’s done a great job for us.”

On the performance front, Winn, along with both of the high school’s choirs, will join the Celebration Choir of Carroll County for a free concert beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, in the high school’s Performing Arts Center.

The 75-minute non-denominational performance will feature a mix of collegiate-level literature along with familiar carols performed by more than 50 local musicians.

The concert, titled the Nine Lessons, is free to attend, but there will be a collection during the performance to support Loaves and Fishes Food Bank.

Directly following the concert, there will be a candlelight dinner sponsored by the choir boosters in the high school cafeteria featuring food by Ruth Hager and Sparky’s Roadhouse Cafe.

Tickets for the dinner will be $20 and are available online or at the door, but seating will be limited. To preorder, contact the choir office by phone at 870-480- 4620, by email at BWinn@bobcat.k12.ar.us or online at https://checkout.square.site/buy/K5FQTHRSUGQPO6Z7WV2SRZ7G. There will also be a silent auction set up before and after the performance. Proceeds will benefit the choir’s trip to New York.

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