Choir Students Find Harmony at Hill Country Choral Workshop

By Yunoo Kim, Reporter

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  • Myles Deol '20 rehearses All-Region and District choir pieces with the rest of the alto section during sectionals. Some of the pieces they rehearsed were 'Kyrie and Gloria', 'The Composition of a Kiss', and 'My Lord Has Come'.

  • Violet Burns '21 sings 'Unclouded Day' with the rest of the soprano section.

  • Elsa Hughes '20 sings 'Kyrie and Gloria' along with the other sopranos. The song was composed by Agneta Skold

  • James Thompson '22 rehearses 'Geistliches Lied' with the rest of the tenor section.

  • Head Choir Director Andre Clark directs the tenor section.

  • Niklas Stading '21 sings with the tenor and bass section in the combined rehearsal towards the end of the event.

  • Seniors Bailey Armosky and Tristan Salemme rehearse with the alto section.

  • Violet Rogers '20 listens to the feedback one of the choir directors is giving the sopranos. Part of the workshop involved getting feedback from the directors on different aspects of the music you could work on.

  • Bhuvan Siddaveerappa '22 and Nathan Peralta '21 listen to the sopranos and altos perform during the combined rehearsal.

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Westwood Choir sang their hearts out in the Hill Country Choral Workshop, which took place at Vista Ridge High School on Saturday, Aug. 24. The program was held to assist choir students from multiple high schools in preparing for the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) auditions. Four choir directors were present as instructors, including Westwood’s Head Choir Director Andre Clark. 

“I think that learning how to learn really complicated music is the real goal here for us,” Mr. Clark said. “While [the students] have the ultimate goal of making the all-state choir or making the all-region choir, the real goal for me is to get them involved in the part of music-making where they learn how to learn [the different aspects of music].”

Approximately 15,000 students participate in the TMEA auditions, which are comprised of four rounds. The top 220 students become members of the prestigious All-State Men’s Choir, All-State Women’s Choir, or the All-State Mixed Choir. Though no students from Westwood passed the final round in 2018, four succeeded in the year before. 

“When you get to the audition, they’re not looking for the person who blends in the most,” Violet Burns ‘21 said. “They’re looking for the person who has a good idea of the piece and makes it personal for them.”

The students had prepared a wide variety of songs for sectional rehearsals, such as The Composition of a Kiss. The spooky notes of the song’s intro were genuinely chilling as they echoed down the hallways. The numbers were not only in English, but also in Russian, French, and German, including the Russian song Bogoroditse Devo. Directors stopped the students in the middle of songs to critique them on on diction, emphasis, and rhythm. The students were also given time to share opinions about what was being conveyed within the lyrics. 

“You add your own style to it with phrasing and emotion. Part  is just what the paper says,” Burns said. “And then you learn what the words mean. Then, you learn to evoke an emotion. You have to change the sound you put out with each word; you have to make it your own.”

The workshop ended with a combined rehearsal, in which all four sections gathered in the choir room to practice the songs together. The sopranos and altos sang Gloria, a song with particularly high notes, and was met with thunderous applause around the room. The final number performed was the gospel song Unclouded Day, which the students finished off with a loud, triumphant note. Amidst congratulations, the students were praised by the directors in regards to their shared passion for music.

“I don’t just enjoy singing but I also try really hard to be as musical as possible- especially at Westwood,” Myles Deol ‘20 said. “It’s a big deal to have excellence. For us, it’s like our lives and not just for fun.”

The first round of high school TMEA auditions will take place on Saturday, Sept. 15.