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Choir heads to Carnegie Hall

YouTube video led to invite

Members of the O’Neill Collegiate and Vocational Institute choir have been invited to participate in a concert featuring composer Eric Whitacre at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City. (Photo supplied)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Members of a local high school choir will have a once in a lifetime experience next year.

The choir at O’Neill Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Oshawa has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York with world-renowned composer, Eric Whitacre.

The choir, which consists of students in Grades 11 and 12, was seen on YouTube performing songs by Whitacre last May with the Elmer Iseler Singers in Toronto.

According to O’ Neill vocal music teacher Erin Collins, “Shortly after that concert, one of our students posted on YouTube one of the pieces that we were performing. Then in early June, I got a phone call from a Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) and they had found the YouTube recording.”

They had seen the choir performing a song titled “This Marriage” by Whitacre, and called to tell Collins that they are doing a concert in April at Carnegie Hall with Whitacre conducting.

According to Collins it is a three-day event that consists of two days of rehearsals and then a dress rehearsal on the third day, which is subsequently followed by the concert.

“[The official from DCINY said] that we were performing at such a high caliber that they were inviting us to come and be a part of this,” says Collins.

After getting permission from the Durham District School Board, Collins says the ball began rolling.

“[The kids] are over the moon,” says Collins. “They’re really excited to do this. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

However, Collins says that it will cost more than $1,000 to participate in the trip. This means that they have begun fundraising.

According to Collins they are raising money through concerts, such as a coffee house in January, and perhaps a sing-a-thon at seniors residences in December.

“Things are kind of in the works. We’ve been reaching out to anyone that we can for donations,” says Collins.

Collins also notes that the students and their parents have also started a GoFundMe to help raise funds for the trip.

Some of the songs that the choir will be performing are five Hebrew love songs, “Animal Crackers” Pts. 1 and 2, as well as one of Whitacre’s most famous pieces, “Sleep.”

Collins says that they will not be performing on their own, as they will be a part of a mass choir that consists of many different choirs from different nations.

Collins says choir members aren’t the only group going to New York, as it is also their senior trip. Several instrumentalists and dancers will be joining as well.

“When we’re in rehearsal, they’ll be off doing other workshops,” says Collins. “When we’re together we’ll be doing performances at schools, seniors residences, we’ll be doing sightseeing. We’ll be going to two Broadway shows, and we’ll be doing a Broadway workshop.”

Collins also says that they will probably also be going to Radio City Music Hall, Top of the Rock and Times Square.

The school has been very encouraging, according to Collins.

“We’ve had excellent support. My principal is thrilled. She is behind all of the different initiatives that we’ve been putting forth to fundraise. And [director of education Lisa Millar] responded within hours of me notifying her and was just so congratulatory.”

Millar will be seeing what she can do to provide financial assistance, Collins says. Collins says she is really proud of her students, and they work hard at what they do.

“It’s so nice that they’re getting this opportunity. That they’re being sort of rewarded for their efforts,” says Collins. “I’m kind of like a very proud parent. I’m bursting with pride. I think it will be very emotional when it actually comes to April and we’re there, and in the moment and watching them be a part of this. It’s just such an honour.”