After this weekend, the “once-in-a-lifetime” bucket lists of the singers in Hillcrest’s Vocal Ensemble and their director are a little lighter. Travel together to New York City? Check. Perform with a Grammy-winning composer and conductor? Check. Sing in Carnegie Hall? Check, check, and check.
After more than a year of planning and practicing, Hillcrest choir director RaNae Dalgleish and her 33 vocal ensemble students took a red-eye to New York City during Spring Break to prepare for a performance in Carnegie Hall on Sunday, April 8. They were joined by high school choirs from Dubai, New Jersey, Tennessee, Canada, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California for the Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) performance of The Music of Eric Whitacre.
The opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall is a remarkable experience, but to perform composer Eric Whitacre’s music with him as the conductor is even more significant, said Dalgleish who also performed with her students on Sunday. “This is huge,” she said. “This is a once in a lifetime experience for the kids. I knew that going in, just to work with Eric Whitacre alone is monumental because he is a rock star in the music world.”
Dalgleish responded to an advertisement on Facebook more than a year ago when she saw the potential for her students to have such a unique experience. Her choir from the 2016-2017 school year auditioned for the performance, and they found out in December 2016 that the 2017-2018 choir had been accepted to perform at the event that was described by BBC Music as the “No. 1 North American Live Event Choice for classical music.”
“The Vocal Ensemble received this invitation because of the quality and high level of musicianship demonstrated by the singers,” said Dr. Jonathan Griffith, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor for DCINY, in a news release about Hillcrest’s participation. “These wonderful musicians not only represent a high quality of music and education, but they also become ambassadors for the entire community.”
The choir began working on nine pieces for Sunday’s performance right away, recording and sending videos intermittently to the organization to ensure they would be prepared for the big stage. The students performed “The Rumor of a Secret King” by John Mackey, three spirituals by Moses Hogan, and several songs composed by Whitacre, including “Seal Lullabye,” which was originally written for a Disney movie that was later cancelled.
Whitacre is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music who has conducted choral and instrumental concerts around the globe, including with the London Symphony Orchestra.