During spring break, students of the Hopewell Valley Chamber Singers choir had an experience of lifetime when they traveled through Europe and performed in venues large and small.
The Chamber Singers are Hopewell Valley Central High School students who consist of 40 members, 37 of whom went on the nine-day trip, according to Choir Director Randy White.
“I feel like if we are going to take the time to step away from everything else we do it is important that the students preform as often as possible,” he said. “I find that in the moment that they are preforming that is the most personal and memorable. I tried to give them as many different performances on the tour as possible, while not exhausting them. We also did some informal performances outside of the scheduled ones we had.”
The students trip was a nine-day tour of Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia. They performed at more than half a dozen venues that included the Munich International School in Munich, Germany, Church of St. Peter in Vienna, Austria, the Neulengbach School in Nelengbach, Austria, the Reduta Jazz Club in Prague, Czech Republic, Prague Castle, and the Church of St. Nicholas in Old Town Square, Prague, according to officials.
“We also had informal outdoor courtyard and plaza performances,” said White.
He said he had started saving the funds for the trip a year and half in advance.
“We are allowed to travel every other year. I save all the proceeds from the concerts, donations, and CD sales to use for the trip. It was about more than a year of fundraising work,” he said.
The trip took place at the end of March and the beginning of April during spring break.
“I wanted to have the student’s takeaway the sense of commitment to do something they are passionate about. That means being there for each other, sharing with other freely, and working at a very high level,” White said. “We want them to present the music as it is suppose to be regardless of whether it is an outside or inside venue, and small or big.”
He said the trip also provided first hand experiences for the students to learn about the region’s geography.
In Prague, for example, the students had the opportunity to take a cooking class at Chefparade, largest cooking school in the city and also visit the Terezin Nazi Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic, which at one time held more than 150,000 Jews, including 15,000 children, for months or years, according to officials.
“The chamber singers choir is an auditioned class and is the highest level choir in the program. Students have to show the most proficiencies to be in this choir,” White said.
The students in the choir are Caleb Bagley, Keerthi Bhatta, Elliot Block, Izabella Bolczak, Caleb Briggs, Madeline Carlton, Alexander Cocco, Alex Cross, Gretchen Cyriacus, Kolter Erickson, Catherine Fauver, Sean Graham, Joseph Gribbins, Owen Harrison, Emilianne Hatke, Shayla Moon Hermann, Lucy Hollar, Shriya Karthikvatsan, Kamen Kirov, Julia Kizar, Camille Ladendorf, Gillian Lee, Alex Lehman-Borer, Aubrey Majkowski, James McLaughlin, Maeve Merzena, Yezad Nakra, Priya Naphade, Jeri Nestle, Mason Orfe, Sari Pehnke, Ruby Reynertson, Henry Rogers, Koji Sakano, Connor Scott, Owen Seftor, Genevieve Shaftel, Andrew Shipley, Anna Torpey, and Jimmy Waltman.
Not only did the choir do a nine-day tour in Europe, in March they were also crowned Grand Champion of the 29th Annual Roxbury Invitational choir competition.
According to competition officials, the Roxbury Invitational is a high school choir competition held at Roxbury High School in New Jersey.
“The Roxbury Invitational brings together some really stellar choirs. Hopewell has a very long history of doing well. We been in the top three showcase for about 8 of the last 10 years. This year we happened to have the right group, material picked and the students preformed more free,” White said.
He said the chamber singers are a mixed bag of students.
“This year I have freshman in the group for the first time. That has never happened before for me in my four years,” White said. “Last year I made a decision that every group in the school should be available based on skill level. The seniors and juniors make up the largest proportion in the group. But it is open for all four grades this year.”
He also said during the Roxbury Invitational Hopewell Junior tenor Alex Cross won Grand Champion of the classical soloist competition and Vox Central Jazz, the school’s jazz choir, placed second in the festival’s jazz competition.
“I’m so proud of these kids, and we’re all working our tails off,” White said.