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Vocalists, director prepare for upcoming Santa Barbara performance

Courtesy of Susan Ainley

For the past four years, choral director Susan Ainley has brought the women’s ensemble to the Westmont Invitational Choral Festival.

The FC chamber choir awaits to depart to the Westmont Invitational Choral Festival, Nov. 1. For the past five years, choral director Susan Ainley participated in the event with her women’s ensemble. This year, she presents her newly assembled chamber choir.

The non-competitive festival includes performances from 12 choirs along with a clinic run by the Westmont music faculty, offering advice and compliments to the groups. FC is placed in a clinic run by Dr. Michael Shasberger, choral and orchestral director at Westmont College.

Ainley has been working at FC for 19 years. She looks forward showcasing her new chamber choir and their repertoire.

“Westmont is a private Christian college in Santa Barbara that many of our students want to go to,” Ainley said. “It’s a very fine college and has a really great music program. Once you are on their list after being invited, you get to keep coming and we will be going for our 5th year.”

The group plans to depart from school at 7 a.m., traveling to San Luis Obispo for breakfast at the Madonna Inn. From there, they leave for Santa Barbara for a guided tour of Westmont, joined by FC 2019 alumnus and now Westmont student, Alex Rurik

Ainley enjoys the acoustics in the over 100-year-old churches. As she directs the chamber choir, Ainley enjoys seeing some of her students look into continuing their singing career at Westmont. 

“My favorite part is singing in the beautiful old churches and the great acoustics,” Ainley said. “This year I am taking a mixed group and I have only taken a women’s group in the past. This time we actually get to sing in Westmont for the head of the whole department when the other groups get the other venues.”

In the following tweet, The Feather promotes the upcoming festival as well as departure and arrival times.

The festival begins by dividing the 12 groups into four and dispersing them to the four assigned venues. Chamber choir is performing at Westmont’s Deane Chapel to receive their clinic at 2 p.m. Other schools attending the session include Stockdale High School and Highland High School

First-year participant in chamber choir Max Hinton, ‘22, enjoys participating in the group and is excited to attend the festival. Hinton shares his anticipation for the trip and how the group has prepared for their performance.

“I am excited for the festival,” Hinton said. “From what I’ve heard, it sounds like a really fun and enjoyable day all around so I’m hoping to experience that. We have three different songs prepared for the festival and we learned a mass choir piece that we will sing with all the choirs. My first year in chamber choir has been great, the small size allows us to get the opportunity to go on things like this trip.”

In the following podcast, Morgan Parker, ’21, interviews choral director Susan Ainley about the Westmont Invitational Choral Festival.

The chamber choir is made up of 21 boys and girls and is accompanied by Ben Certain on the piano. The group will showcase the same repertoire of songs as their performance at the Fresno State Choral Festival, Oct. 23. 

After the clinic, the choirs join together for a small concert, showcasing one song in the First United Methodist Church. The choirs will eat dinner at a local park before meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Santa Barbara in the evening.

Megan LeBlanc | The Feather Online

Chamber choir performed “Sing Praise to God”, “Woodsmoke and Oranges” and “Pure Imagination” at the fall concert, Oct. 21.

Brynee Schmidt, ‘21, attends the festival for her third year in a row. Schmidt previously sang in the women’s ensemble and now participates in chamber choir.

“The Westmont festival is a great experience for our choir to showcase our songs,” Schmidt said, “Last year I enjoyed stopping at the Madonna Inn to eat lunch on the way to the festival. I am looking forward to bonding more with the choir and being able to sing our songs. We have prepared by practicing our songs in class and having extra rehearsals to make sure we are ready.”

The festival does not include score sheets or plaques; it exists as an opportunity for schools to hear other choirs and accept critique from professionals. Westmont hosts this invitational festival as a part of their recruiting process.

The Westmont choirs will perform for the high schools before all choirs participate in singing one mass song. FC then plans to leave for Fresno, returning around 1 a.m. 

For a video article and song from the 2019 fall concert, watch Cantiamo choir sings Buffalo Gals to close fall concert.

For more articles check out, ClovisFest draws thousands to Old Town Clovis, unites community, Oct. 26-27 and Book Review: Indianapolis

Morgan Parker can be reached via email and via Twitter.

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