Every Who down in SLUH-ville, the tall and the small, was singing last Friday night … center-stage at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
All four of St. Louis U. High’s choirs recently performed at one of their biggest events of the year, the Catholic Charities Concert, hosted by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The concert, titled “Joy to the World: A Christmas Concert,” featured performances from the choirs of SLUH, Cor Jesu, and Visitation.
“It was a really cool experience to sing in such a sacred space,” said freshman Jaden Yarborough.
The concert also featured an organist, a violinist, and the handbell choir of the Cathedral Basilica. All the proceeds from ticket sales and donations were given to the Catholic Charities of St. Louis, an umbrella organization of eight different Catholic charity groups.
The idea for the concert was first brought up to SLUH Choir Director Addie Akin back in July, since it was a big event and required a lot of preparation. All four of SLUH’s choirs worked tirelessly throughout the second quarter on their various Christmas songs, many of which will also be performed this Sunday at SLUH’s annual Christmas choir concert.
Jr. Bills only had one practice run-through at the cathedral, held after school on Monday, Nov. 29. Students figured out how the concert would run and where to enter, in addition to becoming adjusted to the massive scale of the Cathedral.
“The space definitely adjusted the audio and the acoustics because you could hear the reverb (for so long),” observed senior Alex Mittendorf. “It just made the sound blend into one swirl of sound.”
“Singing in the cathedral is unlike anything that I'm sure these kids have done before,” added Akin. “It’s just a wild acoustic to get used to, so I was really proud of them for that.”
After arriving on Friday evening, students were able to socialize with members of other choirs before heading down into a building next door where they waited for the audience to filter into the Cathedral and get settled. Once the clock hit 7:45 p.m., all of the choirs walked back into the Cathedral and settled in the side wings, waiting for their call time.
Nerves only increased when, just as the concert began, it became apparent that about 1,000 people were going to be in attendance, with many more watching the live-streamed version.
“It was definitely intimidating because you look back and almost every single seat was filled,” said sophomore Tim Browdy. “I've never sang on a stage that grand.”
In the Christmas spirit, the various SLUH choirs sang “Patapan,” “What Child is This,” and “Christmas Angel.” They had the opportunity to be conducted by Cor Jesu choir director Kathleen Pottinger, wife of SLUH band director Jeff Pottinger. And once all of the ensembles had sung or played their pieces, every choir member from SLUH, Cor Jesu, and Visitation joined in singing a triumphant rendition of “Joy to the World,” a particularly special moment because of the expanded range of lower and higher voices made possible when the single-gender choirs were mixed.
“I love doing collaborations like that … so that our singers have the chance to sing with sopranos and altos,” noted Akin. “That’s really important to sing mixed literature and not just (tenor and bass music).”
“It was breathtaking to hear even when singing. I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to listen to,” said Browdy of the collaboration.
The Jr. Bills were excited about the performance overall.
“I think a lot went well,” said Mittendorf. “There was a lot of work done in the days leading up to the concert to get them to the level that we wanted them to be at to be performed and I'm proud of what we did.”
“I was impressed with what we were able to accomplish with only eight singers,” said Browdy. “We did put a lot of work in, considering we had to learn seven songs in like the span of two months.”
Since these Christmas songs will be repeated at the SLUH Christmas Concert on Sunday, the choirs will be able to assess what worked well and what didn’t to further improve.
“We definitely have some things that we can improve upon and make Sunday even better,” explained Akin. “So it's great to have that experience to perform and then build on that.”
For those that were not able to be in attendance, an edited version of the concert will be aired on KSDK Christmas morning.
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