Spring break offered a holiday trip to New York for the members of the Tar River Children’s Chorus, but it wasn’t all a vacation.
The 60 choristers in the group’s two ensembles, the Cantare and the Concert Chorus, wowed the judges at the Heritage National Music Festival held April 6 at Riverside Church. Each ensemble and the chorus as a whole brought home a superior rating – the festival’s highest grade – and the combined chorus earned the festival’s Spirit Award. The Concert Chorus, which is composed of seventh- to 12th-graders, also placed second in the festival’s high school division.
Two works performed by the group – “Be Still and Know” based on Psalm 42 and “A Suite of Verses” from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses” – specially were composed for it by its conductor of 19 years, Patsy Gilliland of Rocky Mount. Other works included a three-part a cappella arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “This Little Babe” from “A Ceremony of Carols” by Benjamin Britten and a kyrie by Mozart.
The chorus competed against 12 other youth ensembles from as far away as California and Florida.
The chorus’ performance was not its first at the festival, Gilliland said. It competed there in 2001 and 2008 when it was held in New York and in 2005 when it was held in Philadelphia.
Besides participating in the festival, the choristers also had freedom to enjoy New York’s attractions. They watched the Broadway musical “Newsies,” shopped in Chinatown and visited various museums. A dinner cruise and dance around New York Harbor provided a great ending to Saturday evening.
The chorus’ performance season is far from over. It will perform as part of the Tar River Orchestra and Chorus’ spring concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Dunn Center for the Performing Arts at N.C. Wesleyan College. Gilliland also will lead the group in a performance of its festival program at 7 p.m. April 26 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 301 Circle Drive.
Tickets for each concert are $12; students 18 and younger are admitted free.
In preparation for its 2013-14 season, the chorus also is preparing to hold auditions. Singers in grades three through 12 will be asked to perform a prepared short song a cappella and will be tested on rhythm, melodic memory and singing melody and harmony. Auditions will be held in late summer by appointment. More information will be available at the website tarriverchildrenschorus.org or through Gilliland at 442-1923.