Performing at certain venues can be the highlight of a musical career, as if the stage itself shares a star billing, and members of Western Carolina University’s Concert Choir will get that experience this month.
During a New York City visit, the choir will sing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday, May 25, and then at Carnegie Hall on Sunday, May 27.
“I am really looking forward to the trip that we’re taking in a few weeks,” said Matt Brooks, a junior majoring in commercial and electronic music. “For me, this is not only an opportunity to perform in prestigious places like Carnegie Hall and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but also an opportunity to enrich myself by being in one of the most artistic and diverse cities in the world.
“I believe there are others like me in the choral program who rarely receive the opportunity to travel to and experience a place like New York City,” Brooks said. “I’m very excited.”
The Carnegie Hall performance is part of the Gotham Sings Ensemble Showcase, beginning at 8:30 p.m. with WCU’s repertoire in three sets, reflecting concerts from the past year. The first set, “Inspiration,” features historical works ranging from 11th-century Germany to 19th-century France. The second set, “Home,” highlights music from the Smoky Mountains and Western North Carolina region. The final set, “Perseverance,” features a moving collection of African-American spirituals. Tickets are $58 to $85, with some seats still available online at carnegiehall.org.
“I think performing at Carnegie Hall is a bucket list item for almost all professional musicians,” said Allison Thorp, director of WCU choral activities. “To have our students experience that during their college years is an impressive reflection of the quality of WCU’s choral program. To walk the stage where Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saëns, Bartok, Stravinsky ― the very musicians our students are studying ― once walked is a surreal experience. We are honored to have WCU become part of the hall’s historical record now, too.”
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a historic and architecturally significant church, is home for the Archdiocese of New York. The choir will perform at the high altar beginning at 4 p.m. with a program that will include compositions by Palestrina, Mendelssohn and Dolly Parton, as well as the traditional African-American spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Admission is free.
“The university has been immensely supportive,” Thorp said. “We would not be able to go without the support of Carol Burton and the provost’s office, and George Brown and the College of Fine and Performing Arts, and certainly Milton Laufer, director of the School of Music. Students have been asked to pay $500 each, and some have been working second jobs and sacrificing meals in order to pay for that. We also have received generous donations from members of the community.
“I think the quality of the WCU’s choral program is a bit of a well-kept secret,” she said. “It’s time to share that secret with the world.”
For more information, contact WCU’s School of Music at 828-227-7242.