Members of the Fairmont State University Collegiate Singers, Chamber Choir and Community Chorus spent four exciting days in New York City on March 27 through 31. The group was led by Dr. Sam Spears, Fairmont State’s Director of Choral and Vocal Activities.
The singers collaborated with four other choirs that had traveled to New York from Texas, Minnesota and Michigan to perform the Robert Ray “Gospel Mass” in historic Carnegie Hall. The combined group was directed by Dr. Anton Armstrong, a renowned conductor who teaches at St. Olaf College, one of the top music schools in the country. The singers learned the music ahead of time and then had three days of intensive rehearsal in New York to prepare for the concert.
“Dr. Armstrong was a dynamic leader, and he challenged the singers to reach new heights of musicality and expression,” Spears said. “The concert in Carnegie Hall was performed to a full house, and the choir received a standing ovation.”
The students in Collegiate Singers and Chamber Choir also had the opportunity to meet Ola Gjeilo, a rising star in the field of composition. Gjeilo is originally from Norway, but he now resides in New York City. The Fairmont State choirs performed three of his compositions earlier this year. The groups sang these pieces for Gjeilo, and he spent two hours working with the students to help them understand exactly how he wants the music to be interpreted.
“The workshop was very insightful. The students also had fun meeting in person a composer who until then had only been a name on the front of their music,” Spears said.
The singers also had time to take in the sights. They visited the 9/11 Memorial, Times Square, the Museum of Modern Art and the Empire State Building. They attended Broadway shows and the Metropolitan Opera. After a show at the Met, several students waited by the stage door until 1 a.m. for the chance to meet Diana Damrau, a well-known German operatic soprano. The students ate New York style pizza and sampled food from street vendors.
“All in all, the trip was a wonderful synthesis of education, recreation and artistic experience,” Spears said.
“Our well prepared students made the most of this incredible opportunity to learn and grow,” said Dr. Anne Patterson, Professor of Music and Coordinator of the Department of Music. “The students were excellent ambassadors for West Virginia and for Fairmont State. I could not be prouder of these students and of our colleague Sam Spears.”