Submitted by Simsbury Public Schools
Music is the spark that ignites the spirit of the holiday season, and on December 22, 2012, a group of Simsbury High School (SHS) choir students made some very special holiday magic with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) during the HSO Holiday POPS concert.
As part of the Holiday Cirque Spectacular, with the Cirque de la Symphonie performing on and above the stage, the SHS Choir performed with HSO Maestra Carolyn Kuan for one matinee and an evening performance. The Choir had previously performed with Kuan at her inaugural concert as an introduction to the city of Hartford.
Before the performance, the hard work of rehearsing took place. The students were prepared for the concert repertoire by Ms. Katherine Zahara, SHS Director of Choirs; Dr. Stuart Younse, SHS Music & Performing Arts instructor; and Ms. Colleen Thompson, a music educator at Henry James Memorial School.
During a rehearsal at the high school on December 19th Kuan had some unique advice for the students to help them achieve an even higher level of professional performance. During Vivaldi’s “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” she implored them to enunciate the “s” consonant so much that “the hair of the person in front of you should be wet!”
She asked students to get into the drama of the music, urging “get some FUN in it!” and emphasizing smiling in order to connect with the audience, even if that meant “taping the words to the song to the back of the person in front of you so you won’t have to look down so much.”
Said Kuan, “I prefer an engaged performance rather than a perfect performance.”
Students like senior William Conard-Malley really seemed to get Kuan’s messages and appreciate the opportunity he had to work with her. He said, “It is impossible not to grow as a musician when you bring in someone of [Kuan’s] caliber. An outside person often sees something that someone who sees you all the time doesn’t.”
Senior Leah Duford agreed. Even though the students were with Kuan for only a few days, Duford said, “A different perspective and different way of teaching can really make a person grow.”
As busy as an HSO conductor can be, one wonders how Kuan finds the time to work with students. She said, “I believe that a symphony orchestra is there to serve the community. I remember when I was in high school and I had that special experience [of working with another conductor]. So I tell myself, every time we can, let’s share with the community.”
Junior Sam Kyzivat was impressed by how “engaging and energetic” Kuan was. Like his classmates, he was glad for the opportunity to learn from a guest conductor, although the inspiration for a possible career as a music educator could be found closer to home. Said Kyzivat, “I’m interested in pursuing music education because of my teacher, Dr. Younse.”
Last year, this talented group of students traveled to Sicily to perform under the direction of Ms. Zahara with the Children’s Choir of Taormina and at the Opera House of Agrigento. Whether in Connecticut or somewhere else around the globe, this high school choir is certainly taking advantage of some unique opportunities to share the glorious sounds of their music.