Nearly 300 students arrived separately by bus at the Washington National Cathedral Wednesday, easily grouped by their plaid skirts, senior sweatshirts and matching blazers, but by the night’s end, they meshed into a unified choir.
The high school students represented nine schools, public, charter and private, in the District of Columbia as they participated in the 8th annual Cathedral Choral Society’s (CSS) CELEBRATE YOUTH! festival at the National Cathedral.
“The directors love it and the kids love it,” Interim Executive Director of the CCS Margot Young told Patch. “This setting is for the kids to have a chance to sing and learn from kids that they would have otherwise never met.”
Each choir performed either one or two chosen selections alone. The pinacle of the performance, though, was when the nine choirs took the stage together to perform Arthur Honegger’s “King David, Movements from the Third Part”—a piece that Festival Director Benjamin Hutto described to students as a song where participants should “think instrumentally.”
Early on Wednesday, the choirs arrived at 12:30 p.m., and separated into male and female groups to practice the joint arrangement. Shortly after, all participants gathered in St. Alban's Parish to practice for the 7 p.m. performance. Students practiced until 5 p.m., when they and faculty shared a meal provided by the CCS.
According to several students, the CELEBRATE YOUTH! festival is a great time to work with other young people from different schools.
“It’s an opportunity to sing in a great place with great literature, good directors and good repertoire,” Georgetown Visitation Choir Director David Nastal said. “Music in a great place changes the mind, body and spirit.”
The event has been particularly good for Georgetown Visitation, an all girls school, since it has provided them a chance to sing with, and learn from, male voices.
Proud father, Mike and his daughter Rosalie attended the event to support his daughter as she performed for the School Without Walls choir. “She made sure to know I was going to come,” he said. “It was clear she was excited to perform.”
Joan Moten, director of vocal music and music chair at School Without Walls Senior High School, said she values each CELEBRATE YOUTH! choir festival and has continually brought her students every year since it started.
“Every time students come and participate in the festival, they leave enriched and with an appreciation of the collaboration itself,” said Moten. In addition, “the mass choir selection is challenging and is always exciting to hear when performed.”
It has proved challenging bring the various choir programs together and for each to fit in time to rehearse for the annual event, said Nastal.
Still the CELEBRATE YOUTH! event continues to draw in crowds every year to witness and listen to the conglomeration of the various school choirs.
“I hope this opportunity continues with the energy it began with,” added Nastal about the growing festival.
The festival was free for the public.