Jeffrey Lunden, NPR
Bentonville High School in Northwest Arkansas is one of four choruses selected to participate in the National High School Choral Festival at Carnegie Hall. From left: Senior Michele Carter, Choir Director Terry Hicks and junior Hunter Klee.
Bentonville High School in Northwest Arkansas is one of four choruses selected to participate in the National High School Choral Festival at Carnegie Hall. From left: Senior Michele Carter, Choir Director Terry Hicks and junior Hunter Klee. Jeffrey Lunden, NPR
The Bentonville High School Chamber Choir in rehearsal, with Craig Jessop conducting.
The Bentonville High School Chamber Choir is gearing up to play their first concert at Carnegie Hall.
The choir, based in northwest Arkansas, was one of four chosen to perform in the prestigious Carnegie Hall National High School Choral Festival.
The other selected groups are Chandler High School Chorale from Chandler, Ariz., Highland High School Concert Choir from Gilbert, Ariz., and Madison High School Bel Canto Choir from Rexburg, Idaho.
All participants will travel to New York City for four days of rehearsals and a final concert at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by Craig Jessop of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The goals of the Carnegie workshop are to take the highest quality choral orchestral work and give kids an experience that they could never get in their own schools," says Jessop, who has led the festival since it began four years ago.
Three thousand students attend the high school, which boasts a state-of-the-art football stadium and a Broadway-sized performing arts center.
Over the past 13 years, Bentonville Choir Director Terry Hicks has built a program he says even the jocks think is cool. He has twice been named teacher of the year.
"I love choir," says senior Michele Carter. "If you could read my T-shirt yesterday, it said 'Choir Nerd' on it. It's looking to be what's gonna be my career, it's where I spend my time and it's what I love doing."
For months, the kids in the Bentonville chamber choir rehearsed the Carnegie Hall repertoire, anticipating the day that conductor Craig Jessop would come to town to work with them.
"This is very sophisticated music," says Jessop, "...And the kids are eating it up. They're really involved, musically and emotionally."
"And the kids are eating it up. They're really involved, musically and emotionally."
This weekend, the Bentonville Chamber Choir along with their peers — two high school choirs from Arizona and one from Idaho — arrive in New York to prepare for their concert at Carnegie Hall on Monday night.
They will perform Igor Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms," and Francis Poulenc's "Gloria."
Next week, we bring you an update on the choir's performance.