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Blake Deffenbacher | The Feather Online

The FC junior high choir performs halfway through the Cal Poly Festival, March 22.

Festival prepares students for upcoming trip 

Elementary, junior high and high school choirs perform at the Cal Poly Central Coast Spring Choral Festival in San Luis Obispo, March 22.

Each year, choral director Susan Ainley takes students to the festival. Three FC choirs are among nearly 60 who performed this week. Each choir is given critiques, compliments and are graded by the festival’s adjudicators.

First attending the Cal Poly Festival in 2010, Susan Ainley continues taking the choirs each year. She enjoys getting feedback from the adjudicators and allowing students to have a professional singing experience.

“I chose this festival to give the choirs a chance to sing in a beautiful performance hall and have adjudicators critique them,” Ainley said. “Each year, my choirs are able to present music they have practiced for many months. It is a great opportunity to get feedback, but for me, it’s a reward for working so hard.

“Concerts at home, in my opinion, are a gift to the community, so we prepare music that will speak to our audience or the occasion,” Ainley continued. “When we go to festival, we are ‘showing off’ a little, trying to make a statement that Fresno Christian has a viable music education program. The performance is graded by the adjudicator, and we also hear remarks on a CD with both encouragements and critique to make them sound even better.”

Braden Bell | The Feather Online

The high school choir, Cantiamo, and Bellezza, the high school women’s ensemble, combine and sing second to last in the festival.

The elementary choir took the stage as the first group of the festival, with junior high performing shortly thereafter. Cantiamo, the high school choir, and Bellezza, the high school women’s ensemble, combined to sing second to last, finishing with a favorite, “I Sing Because I’m Happy,” by Rollo Dilworth.

Celeste Counts, ’18, continues her sixth year participating in choir and attending the Cal Poly Festival.

“I have been coming on the Cal Poly trip since seventh grade,” Counts said. “This year I enjoyed singing on stage. We really had a lot of fun especially during our last song ‘I Sing Because I’m Happy’. Mrs. Ainley really encouraged us to enjoy it and praise God while we sang.

“This year we did it a little differently because of the rain down in Cayucos,” Counts continued. “We got to go around downtown San Louis Obispo and I’ve never really been exploring there so that was fun. The Cal Poly Festival is always one where we can really perfect our set for the spring concert. It helps us gain confidence and learn what we can work on to perfect our songs.”

Students planned to spend the remainder of the day after the festival at Cayucos Beach. However, due to flooding and lightning, the groups traveled to downtown San Luis Obispo instead. Students ate lunch and explored the city before heading back home.

Cal Poly doesn’t give out trophies for this festival, unlike the Heritage Festival which occurs every other year. However, they do award an ‘Adjudicator’s Choice’ award. Each of the FC choirs has received at least one such award in the past eight years. Even though awards are given out rarely, Ainley feels satisfied with the students’ performances.

“The most rewarding part is hearing my choirs do their very best,” Ainley said. “This year, I was proud of all my groups. The high school choir exceeded my expectations. We have been working very hard on our music for New York, so I decided to have the choir sing two of the six pieces we learned for Carnegie Hall, plus our gospel number ‘I Sing Because I’m Happy’.

“My goal was a technically correct performance, but all I really wanted was to hear the adjudicators say ‘I believe you when you sing,’” Ainley said. “Every year, we are the only Christian school at this festival, and is important to me that we present as a choir that loves God! I was so thrilled when both adjudicators, while giving us high grades on the technical aspects, also said that our choir had a ‘beautiful spirit.’ They both said they could tell that we were invested in the music, and loved to sing. I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”

First-year choir member, Nate Mount, ’18, shares about his experience at the festival. Mount was sated with the choirs overall performance.

“Coming into the festival, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Mount said. “I was kind of nervous at first but it was an awesome experience. It was an amazing atmosphere. Everything was so beautiful and giant it really took my breath away. I felt that our performance went really well and that we all worked so hard to get there. My favorite part of the trip was probably getting to hang out with my friends and just have a fun time.”

With the festival’s conclusion, Cantiamo and Bellezza members continue to prepare for their upcoming New York trip, April 9. They will sing in at Carnegie Hall along with other choirs from around the country.

The following video features the three songs the choir sang at the festival including, ‘Domine Fili Unigenite’ by Antonia Vivaldi, ‘In Remembrance’ by Jeffery L. Ames and ‘I Sing Because I’m Happy’ by Rolo Dillworth.

Campus choir sings at Cal Poly from The Feather Online on Vimeo.

The author can be reached via email: Braden BellInstagram and Twitter.

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