Chamber choir performs in front of student performers and judges. Photo courtesy of Jason Chan
For the second time in Lowell’s history, both advanced and chamber choir made it to the Festival of Gold, where they performed on March 26 at the Orchestra Hall of the Chicago Symphony Center in Chicago.
The Festival of Gold is an annual event for high school-level choirs from around the world to come together to showcase their vocal skills. Both choir groups qualified to perform in the festival through their gold medal performances at the annual Anaheim choir competition.
To prepare to compete against the top choir groups in the world, advanced and chamber choir rehearsed daily during the months before the festival, according to vocal music teacher Jason Chan. “The choir [knew] they needed to do really well to compete with the other choirs, and they worked really hard to get themselves onto the same level as other choirs,” Chan said. “[The Festival of Gold] gave them a purpose of rehearsing and also to excel from their rehearsals because they know it’s not just another festival.”
The Lowell choir stands in front of Chicago’s Cloud Gate. Photo courtesy of Jason Chan
For the event, Chan selected three songs for each choir group to “showcase the quality of the choir at its highest level.” At the festival, Lowell’s advanced choir sang “Exultate Deo” by Giovanni Palestrina, “La Rose Complete” by Morten Lauridsen and “Double Double, Toil and Trouble” from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, while chamber choir sang “Cantate Domino” by Hans Leo Hassler, “Kondalilla” by Stephen Leek and “Hark I Hear” by Alice Parker.
In addition to the performances by advanced and chamber choir, five Lowell students were selected to sing at the festival as part of an honor choir, which is a one-time choir group composed of choir members from the high school groups participating in the festival. Created specifically for the Festival of Gold, the honor choir was directed by Anton Armstrong, a music professor from St. Olaf School in Minnesota. Students chosen to be in the honor choir practiced their assigned songs individually and then set up specific times to meet up and rehearse.
Choir students scheduled to perform at the festival also had an opportunity to rehearse their songs for professional artists during choral clinics in Chicago. A choral clinic is a meeting where a small audience judges a group of musicians and offer suggestions on how they can improve their performances. Conveniently, these rehearsals took place at the Westin Hotel where advanced and chamber choir were staying.
Since the Westin Hotel is located in Lombard, a suburb right outside of Chicago, students were also able to explore the city after their performances. They toured Chicago’s Chinatown and Downtown, participating in fun tourist activities and visiting the Skydeck Chicago and Chicago River.
Despite not placing in the Festival of Gold, chamber choir earned an average score of 94 out of 100 and advanced choir earned an average score of 90 out of 100.
Although Lowell did not place in the competition, the trip was a great experience for students in advanced and chamber choir. Senior Esteban Quinonez, who is a part of chamber, advanced, and honor choir, shared that this trip was especially memorable for him. “It was so fun to collaborate with other choirs, especially when I did the honor choir, and I think that was my favorite experience, because the songs that we chose were really good and they fit in my music genre and range, which I really liked,” Quinonez said.
Quinonez also added that this trip was a wonderful bonding experience, as he developed deeper friendships with his peers. “I got closer to a vast amount of people,” he said, “and it was just super fun being in that kind of environment with my other classmates that I usually don’t get to do that with.”