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Campus choir and ensemble prepare to embark on trip

The high school choir, Cantiamo, and ladies ensemble, Bellezza, won a Gold rating in the Heritage Festival in Anaheim, California, April 2017. As a result, they were invited to sing the following year at Carnegie Hall in New York City, New York, and be a part of the Worldstrides National Youth Honor Choir, April 15. The youth choir combines different schools from across the nation who earned the same award.

For the past year, the choir has worked to prepare for this event. The choir doubled its size and now holds over 40 high school students. The choir is directed by Susan Ainley and accompanied by Benjamin Certain.

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

This will be choir director Susan Ainley’s second time traveling to New York with one of her FCS choirs. Over 75 singers and adults will travel with Ainley on this year’s trip, April 9-16.

Ainley has directed choirs on campus for over 10 years. However, previously in 2017, the Bellezza high school women’s ensemble traveled to New York. She explained the struggles and triumphs of traveling to Carnegie Hall.

“I started preparing for NY right after the Heritage Festival last year,” Ainley said. “Since I have been on this trip before, I knew how much work was involved. However, last time I only had 15 students and 10 adults, and now our number is 77 students and parents. Once we knew what songs we were required to learn, we started practicing. We worked each day learning the music, as well as vocal technique.”

Ben Certain joined the staff last year and has assisted director Ainley. Certain accompanies the choral groups as the pianist. Ainley appreciates the work that Certain has put in to prepare for this trip.

“I could not have prepared this group without the expert help of our accompanist, Mr. Certain,” Ainley said. “Each block day, after vocal warm up and exercising, we divided in sectionals to practice. I took the sopranos and altos, and Mr. Certain took the tenors and bases. Each of us taught individual parts to students, and Mr. Certain also helped the men with specific technique to help them reach the goal. It made our rehearsal time work harder and smarter, and the result is we learned all the music.”

I have loved teaching the music for New York. Our conductor, Dr. Rollo Dilworth, chose songs from different musical eras, giving the choir lots of new material. I have been very impressed with the choir’s ability to learn such difficult music. They showed me that they didn’t just join choir to go on a big trip, but wanted to learn how to sing well. — Susan Ainley

Before singing in front of hundreds, Ainley felt she needed to prepare the choir for large audiences so that they would feel comfortable performing in New York. She hosted school concerts and took them to different festivals at Cal Poly and at Fresno Pacific University.

“I didn’t want to forget about the choral events that we usually do,” Ainley said. “We also prepared music for fall and Christmas concerts, as well as two festivals. This means our year has been filled with singing.”

Julia Fikse | The Feather Online

Ainley prepared choir and ensemble for the trip by having them perform in several concerts, including the annual Christmas concert (pictured).

While students anticipate traveling to New York, Ainley will not be directing the choir for the concert. Doctor Rollo Dilworth will, however, lead the Worldstrides National Youth Honor Choir‘s April 15 performance. Dilworth is skilled in the arts of the music industry. He chose songs from many different time periods that invoke different feeling towards the audience.

“I have loved teaching the music for New York,” Ainley said. “Our conductor, Dr. Rollo Dilworth, chose songs from different musical eras, giving the choir lots of new material. I have been very impressed with the choir’s ability to learn such difficult music. They showed me that they didn’t just join choir to go on a big trip, but wanted to learn how to sing well.”

Ainley continued on to say how important this upcoming trip is to the choir. It shows how hard they have worked and the fun they get to do because of it.

“The NY trip is very special,” Ainley said. “It’s a combination of seeing all the wonderful sights, and performing is a huge choir at an iconic recital hall. I love seeing the faces of students when they walk the streets of NY, taking in all the sights and sounds. I know for me, when I went the first time, I felt like I was in a movie every day. I enjoyed every minute, and I can’t wait to have this group experience the excitement of the city. Singing in the National Youth Choir is an honor, and I feel the students will represent FC in a fantastic way.”

Wesley Hinton, ‘20, has been a part of FCS choirs since elementary schools. He looks forward to going to New York and enjoying all the hard work that the choir has put in to pay off.

“When were going to New York, I cant wait to go to the Empire State Building,” Hinton said. “I’m also looking forward to going to Ground Zero. The last time I went to New York they didn’t have the 9/11 monument and its going to be really cool to see. This spring we practiced like really hard songs all year and so its going to be fun singing them with a mass choir on Sunday.”

The choir and ensemble will leave for New York City on Monday, April 9, returning Monday, April 16. The Feather staff wishes the choirs a safe journey and successful time at Carnegie Hall. Please return to The Feather for updates on their trip in real time and on The Feather’s social media sites.

The last performance the high school choir attended was at the Cal Poly Central Coast Spring Choral Festival. The three songs perfromed included ‘In Rememberance,’ ‘Domini Fili,’ and ‘I Sing Because I’m Happy.’ A video of their final song can be found below.

For more articles, read Journalist Michael Pollan visits San Joaquin Valley Town Hall and Fashion show inspires creativity.

Carston Saelzler can be reached via email.

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