Grand Forks Choral Society jets off to New York

Grand Forks Choral Society jets off to New York

The group will be singing the Messiah

By J. Kathleen Thompson

A year and a half long dream project – to sing Messiah with a multitude of other choristers in Carnegie Hall – is fast coming to fruition for the Grand Forks Choral Society.

Next Thursday, a tour group of 45 Boundary residents (31 of them choristers) will be boarding their flight to the Big Apple with music scores, Broadway tickets and anticipation in hand. Many are still incredulous that the soon-to-be-realized dream of singing one of classical music’s most cherished works in one of the world’s most prestigious concert halls is days away, on Nov. 26.

The road to Carnegie Hall started with the acceptance, cum laude, of an audition recording the choir submitted to Distinguished Concerts International, a production company that specializes in offering community choristers the experience of performing choral classics in world-renowned venues. Presenting Messiah in Carnegie Hall (a venue that has hosted the best in both classical and popular music, such as the conducting debut of a 25-year-old unknown named Leonard Bernstein in 1943 and two concerts by Led Zeppelin in 1969) has become an annual feature production of this company. Understandably, every year the event attracts more and more interest, and auditions, from aspiring singers around the globe.

When it was clear that a cadre of choristers from the Grand Forks Choral Society were keen to take up DCI’s invitation to sing in their 2017 Messiah production, the work began. An extensive list of choruses from the Messiah needed to be learned, extra rehearsals scheduled, funds towards the educational expenses of the trip event raised, the itinerary organized and travel details for 45 people arranged and finalized.

The work now behind them, final preparation for the performance awaits them in New York. A five-day residency program begins on November 23, where our choirs’ efforts along with those of thirteen other choirs hailing from Canada, US, Mexico, France, Austria and China will be shaped into a professional quality presentation by director, Jonathan Griffith.

In tandem with a hired orchestra and four soloists, the 457-voice choir will be performing the Beecham/Goosens 1959 adaptation of this wildly popular Christmas oratorio, the oratorio that was so popular even at it’s Dublin debut in 1742 that the women in the audience were asked to leave their hoop skirts at home, and the men, their swords, in order to conserve space in the concert hall!

Although much time will be devoted to all-important rehearsals in New York, a trip like this would not be complete without taking in other iconic sights and experiences in New York City. Given that the choir will be staying in a hotel in the centre of Manhattan, a mere block from Carnegie Hall, they will have the city at their doorstep. Lyn Mackey, one of the tour organizers, sketches out some of sightseeing plans of the choir.

“Many of the members will be taking part in bus tours, visiting galleries, museums, the 9/11 Memorial, Christmas window viewing, shopping, enjoying the energy of New York City and the tastes of the city,” Mackey said. “Quite a few are going to ‘Come from Away’, the new Canadian Broadway sensation about Newfoundland’s support during 9/11 as well as other concerts and Broadway shows.”

‘Making the big time’ like this for a small community choir is no small feat, and the choir is grateful for the visionary leadership of their director, Kirsten Rezansoff, and the many members and fans who have worked tirelessly to make this trip a reality. Generous support from the community and donors has enabled the choir to meet its financial goals. Through individual donations and fundraising events, the choir was able to raise $11,505.00, $7,000 alone through raffle tickets sold for the “Dinner of Note” catered by local chef, William Caley, and friends.

While hometown audiences may not be able to hear or see the choral society’s Carnegie Hall debut on Nov. 26, they will have the chance to hear a recap of nine of the classic choruses from Handel’s Messiah in their annual Christmas concert. “Messiah and More” will be shared with the community on Dec. 9 and 10 in the Grand Forks Secondary School auditorium. Leave your hoop skirts and swords at home as these concerts, featuring these newly-minted stars of Carnegie Hall, are sure to sell out.

Bravo, singers, safe travels and give our regards to Broadway!