High School Festival Sings Mozart at UMass

High School Choirs
Massachusetts ACDA

Josh Nannestad, High School R&S Chair
January, 2013

On October 27 hundreds of young musicians gathered to perform together under the auspices of MassACDA. After superb performances by the University of Massachusetts Chamber Choir and University Chorale, 100 high school singers and their directors joined the UMass singers, the UMass Orchestra, a stellar quartet of professional singers, and conductor Tony Thornton in a performance of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, K. 317. Dr. Thornton led demanding yet enjoyable rehearsals, musicianship and camaraderie were high throughout the day, and only a few basses took someone else’s concert pants by mistake!
Tenor soloist and UMass faculty member Bill Hite gave an inspiring pep talk to the ensemble, and the students burst into applause the first time they heard the “Agnus Dei”
sung by soprano Junko Watanabe.

ACDA has operated this High School Festival in partner-ship with the University for many years. Driven by a desire to make our Festival distinct from the other festival and honor choir experiences available to our students, the executive board and UMass conductors created an experience with the following criteria:

  • Offered a masterwork in concerted performance;
  • Put high school students in rehearsal and performance with college and professional musicians;
  • Allowed the students to share a performance with their teachers;
  • Shortened the length of the day to facilitate easier participation from distant schools.

Thirteen institutions sent singers to this festival, including some groups that had not participated before. We hope to continue to broaden the appeal of this event throughout the state and with our neighbors in New England. The October event is intentionally held before districts and all-state events—hopefully at a time of the year when both you and your students can embrace the worthwhile challenge!

After this first successful event we will continue to refine the concept. Some students were disappointed to lose the focus of a single-gender honor choir; in some years the full orchestra may not be available. This festival only works if it is valuable to the membership, so please share your ideas with us. Those who participated, please share your reactions with us and your colleagues. Those who did not participate: what can we do to encourage you to join us?

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