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Choir performs at Carnegie Hall



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OHS choir students had an absolute ball in New York City, sight-seeing and performing. (click for larger version)
May 04, 2011 - It was the performance of a lifetime for a select group of choir members from Oxford High School as they performed in New York City's famous Carnegie Hall on Sunday, April 17.

Thirty-three students spent four days in New York City as part of a performance residency for the National Festival Chorus, consisting of advanced adult and high school vocalists from around the country.

"It is where the most advanced groups are able to come and not only perform, but rehearse and do this residency and put on a masterwork by a major composer," OHS choir director Christopher Card said.

The National Festival Chorus preformed John Rutter's "Mass of the Children" and were accompanied by the New York City Chamber Orchestra and professional soloists Melissa Zapin and Chris Trakas. Jeffery Redding directed the performance.

"To be rehearsing with this professional orchestra and soloist and this nationally renowned director for those many hours and those number of days, it is hard to put a value on that," Card said.

Card said the choir participated in the highest level of performance at Carnegie Hall for high schools, the Master's work series, during their residency.

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(click for larger version)
Oxford was selected when the president of the performance company heard the choirs sing at multiple festivals and invited them to perform at Carnegie Hall.

After submitting audition tapes, Card found out last fall two companies had selected Oxford to perform in New York.

"We were invited to perform in January, but we passed that by so we would have more time for the kids to raise funds for it, since it is such a major undertaking to participate in a residency," Card said.

"I was excited to have two opportunities to perform, but I chose the one that best suited us," he added.

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According to Card, students had to raise $1,500 each for the residency. Through sponsors and fund-raising, the group raised over $23,000. Card said the students received a standing ovation when they finished their performance on Sunday evening.

"The performance at Carnegie Hall was enthusiastically received with a standing ovation, which has, without a doubt, created a lifelong memory in the minds of those students that performed," Card said.

"Performing at Carnegie Hall fulfills a goal that was set in 2007 that Oxford choirs would qualify to perform at Carnegie Hall by 2012," he added.

The trip wasn't just about performing.

"Each day the kids were able to get numerous New York experiences," Card said. "When they weren't singing, they were having these incredible New York experiences."

Their itinerary included: visiting Central Park and the Central Park Zoo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock at Rockafeller Center, negotiating deals in Chinatown and Little Italy, shopping in Times Square and 5th Avenue, seeing Mary Poppins on Broadway, dining at BB King's Club and taking a two-hour midnight luxury cruise of the New York Harbor.

Card said he used previous trips he took to New York and prior performances at Carnegie Hall to plan the activities for his students.

"New York City really rolled out the red carpet for the Oxford vocalists for this residency," Card said. "The production agency, the four-star Park Central Hotel and every venue we visited treated our students with star status."

One of the biggest compliments Card heard from the production company was how respectful and grateful the students were for the Carnegie Hall experience.

"When we take Oxford students out of town, we know the positive representation is going to be there," he said. "This one was very much the case, where adults and people in this production company and numerous participants from around the country made compliments about our students, about their positive attitude, their professionalism and their gratefulness."

"They weren't there for themselves. They really represented Oxford incredibly well," Card added.

Card said he can now turn his attention towards taking the group beyond the national level and onto the international stage.

Currently, choirs at OHS have offers to perform in China in 2012 and Ireland in 2013. Card noted he has a production company calling him nearly every week trying to get them to go and perform in Ireland.

"They are really strong after us," he said.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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