On Jan. 17, while most Leesville students were enjoying a teacher workday, Leesville’s Capital Pride kicked off the new semester with a 6-hour rehearsal with the Director of Choruses for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Norman Mackenzie.
The ensemble is preparing for their highly anticipated trip to New York City from Feb. 8 through Feb. 14.
In New York, Capital Pride will participate in music workshops and perform the “Berlioz Requiem” in the prestigious Carnegie Hall.
They will perform with The Concorde Vocal Ensemble of the York County Senior Honors Choir of York County, Pennsylvania and The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorale.
Aiding Covington in leading the ensemble’s preparation of this performance are the Student Conductors, Mary Lee Free, senior and Hunter Coultrap, senior.
When the duo received the requiem, their first reactions were “panic” and “fear.”
“The Berlioz Requiem is just not something normal high schoolers go around performing,” said Free.
The piece is ten movements long, written in Latin and sometimes exceedingly difficult in vocal exertion and rhythm.
“The coolest thing about the requiem is that it was written by someone who didn’t formally study music; he just put raw emotion into what he wrote and created a masterpiece; but the downside of all of that brilliance is that I don’t think [Berlioz] realized how taxing all of the notes would be on the human voice,” said Coultrap.
Capital Pride received the piece in August and is still working on it. “We’ve been pretty much encouraged to sleep with it under our pillows,” said Brooks Jordan, junior.
The meticulous study of the requiem, only further prepared the ensemble for what Mackenzie called a “successful rehearsal,” as he shouted “yes!” throughout its entirety.
Mackenzie’s charismatic personality and energetic nature did not go unnoticed in the rehearsal.
Free, a professed “music nerd,” picked up on something special as she rehearsed with Mackenzie.
“It was as if he were directly channeling Robert Shaw, the man responsible for this whole workshop!” said Free.
Shaw founded the Carnegie Chorale Workshop in 1990.
Mackenzie, who studied and worked closely with the legendary conductor for 14 years, used many of the same techniques Shaw developed in rehearsing with Leesville’s advanced ensemble.
“You see, here’s the thing–I love Robert Shaw,” said Free.
“I have a Robert Shaw reader by my bed, and he gives me wisdom every night. I automatically sensed his spirit in our rehearsal,” said Free.
For many Capital Pride members, it was Mackenzie’s energy that aided them through the rehearsal.
“It was said that if we rehearsed correctly and if we truly had worked hard enough on the requiem, we would feel just as energized coming out the rehearsal as we did going into it, and I must say, I think I felt even more energized than before,” said Jordan. “Norman Mackenzie’s booming voice and energy I’m pretty sure had something to do with it too.”
Capital Pride’s most common descriptions of their rehearsal are “challenging” and “rewarding.”
For example, when warming up, the ensemble did an exercise where they were to sing the sixteen steps to a half step.
“To the untrained ear, it probably sounds like the same note over and over, but to our ensemble, it was probably one of the hardest things we have ever attempted—and that was just a warm up!” said Jordan.
Although the rehearsal was tedious and a lot of hard work, the ensemble feels prepared for their trip to New York.
“The things we have to work on are quite evident, but I am sure we will fix what we need to fix before heading to New York,” said Coultrap.
Aside from the piece itself, Jordan observed something different about the ensemble itself.
“During the rehearsal, it was as if something magical happened. We stopped sounding like a good ensemble of many voices and began sounding like a unified and exceptional choir of one voice,” he said. “It was absolutely beautiful.”
You can see a clip of Capital Pride rehearsing the requiem on WRAL here (fast forward to 15:45).