Chamber Choir Performs with UT’s Concert Chorale

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  • Choir students Sarah Sherwood ’20, Violet Rogers ’20, and Elsa Hughes ’20 bond after rehearsal. They relaxed by playing a hand clapping game.

  • Choir director Mr. Andre Clark discusses the music with the guitarist. The guitarist played with the choir for ‘The Lake Isle’.

  • Choir students chat before preparing to go onstage. Before the performance, they were able to rehearse in UT’s choir room.

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Westwood Chamber Choir performed with University of Texas at Austin’s (UT’s) Concert Chorale on Nov. 16. In recent years, Dr. Suzanne Pence, the conductor of the Concert Chorale, has been inviting a high school choir to be a guest artist at one of the college choir’s performances. This year, Westwood was selected, giving the high school choir members a unique opportunity to sing with collegiate level musicians. 

“My favorite part about the concert was all of the collaborations,” director Mr. Andre Clark said. “We’ve done so many collaborations this year with our choir program that to see a collegiate performance, that was something that I think [chamber] needed to see- it was an opportunity to see something new.”

The very first song in the concert was a combined piece with the UT Concert Chorale. Titled Bogoroditse Devo, this song was also one of the selections for the Texas Music Educator’s Association (TMEA) all-state process. Setting a somber mood, the song was able to fill the room and almost seem like it was being sung in a cathedral, with the combined vocal prowess of chamber choir and the Concert Chorale. 

“It’s a little frightening to be with such experienced musicians, but I think [the experience] was really fun and helped us out in our own musicality,” Laney McFadden ‘20 said. “It was also interesting because we have a UT director, so that was cool and gave us a special connection to the other choir.”

 Afterwards, the Concert Chorale stepped off and let the high schoolers start their set. The next song was The Lake Isle, based off a poem by William Butler Yeats. The song was unique in that it used a string quartet, a piano, and a guitar in its accompaniment, giving it a warmer feel. The song itself has emotionally stirring lyrics, and the whole sound of the piece helped set the tone for it extremely well. In the middle of the set was the haunting Vichnaya Pamyat, a Russian funeral song, meaning ‘memory eternal’. With the bass’ rumbling low notes and the floating soprano tones, the song was truly something to remember. Afterwards, the choir sang Down In the River to Pray, a choir song with a french horn backing, giving opportunity for both instruments to shine. This collaboration was unique in that one of the french horn players was a Westwood choir alum, and the french horn professor who played along was the father of one of the members of Chamber Choir.

“For us to have the opportunity to work with the horn ensemble from UT with a choir parent and a former student was just awesome,” Mr. Clark said.

The high school finished out their set with Unclouded Day, a peppy gospel song which speaks of hope and finding a better place. This song was conducted by assistant director and UT alum Ms. Robin Harwell, making it even more special. 

Once they were done, the chamber choir members were able to watch the UT singers perform. Their set included pieces with lively percussion, big sound, and even interpretive dancers near the end. 

“The UT choir had a very rich sound, and was probably one of the best choirs I have heard,” Alex Pablo ‘22 said. “It was also amazing [that they] sung with our choir, especially knowing we were one of the few choirs in Texas to get that opportunity.”