ESCANABA — What began as an imaginative rehearsal tool has turned into a unique experience for Escanaba High School’s Chorale, a select choir under the direction of John D. Beck.
Last year, the choir was performing “My Friend Elijah,” a composition by Illinois composer Paul Carey. In an attempt to help his students prepare to perform at the State Choir Festival, Beck arranged a Skype session so the students could interact with Mr. Carey, who was so impressed with the students’ performance of a piece that is normally only done by college and professional choirs that he offered to write a piece specifically for them at a fraction of his usual commission fee.
Enter the Spotlights, the performing arts booster organization formally known as Patrons of Escanaba Schools Performing Arts (PESPA). The group raises funds to support performing arts activities at all levels in the Escanaba Public Schools. In the 2012-2013 school year, the organization raised enough money to provide $10,697 worth of support in the form of scholarships, funding for festivals and workshops, and transportation and housing for special events for a large number of students.
When the Spotlights heard about Carey’s offer, they were immediately enthusiastic about the project. Through their fund-raising activities, they have been able to pay the commission fee for the new piece, entitled “April,” that will be premiered at the Chorale’s spring concert and are now making arrangements for Carey to come to Escanaba to work with the students and to attend the premiere performance.
John Beck and the Chorale students are excited about the new piece, which has been arriving piecemeal. The completed score, including the accompaniment, will be ready for the concert, but the students have been working on the music already.
Carey has sent sections to Beck as they were completed so the students could begin to learn the piece in time for the concert. It promises to be a very special event for the Chorale students as well as for those in attendance at the concert.
The Spotlights are planning a reception following the concert to honor Carey, Beck, and the Chorale members.
The concert will held on Wednesday, April 30, beginning at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Escanaba Junior-Senior High School. There is no admission fee for the concert, although the Spotlights will have a table where they will accept donations; seating is first come, first served.