by MyKenzie Hoffman
Every year, the Adams County Music Education Association holds the County Chorus Musical Festival for participating schools in Adams County. The festival encourages collaboration among young musicians in schools across the county and allows these talented students to come together to create beautiful music. It is a unique opportunity for the students to be able to perform with a diverse group who also share the same love for music. A guest conductor is brought in who chooses pieces for the combined choir to perform and works with the choir over the course of two days to create a blended sound that is performance-ready by the third day. While it is a challenging task to prepare over 150 students for a performance within 48 hours, the talents and dedication of both the students and the teachers involved allow for the process to run smoothly.
The participating schools in Adams County include Bermudian Springs School District, Conewago Valley School District, Delone Catholic, Fairfield School District, Gettysburg Area School District, Littlestown Area School District, and Upper Adams School District. The venue changes every year as a different school is selected to host for each festival. This year’s festival was hosted by Conewago Valley School District. The 2016 festival occurred Thursday, November 17th through Saturday, November 19th. Practices on Thursday and Friday prepared the students for the concert Saturday.
On Thursday evening, students from the seven different schools mixed together for the first for a quick, two hour practice to evaluate where the group was at and how the sound blended together initially. While it was a rough rehearsal after a long day of school, the group cooperated well to get through the repertoire. Though some felt well-prepared for concert that night, it was evident that there was a lot of progress that needed to be made by the group and long day of hard work ahead of them.
Friday morning, the schools gathered once again in the Conewago Valley auditorium awaiting the arrival of the guest conductors. As the clock struck 9, the large group of students shrunk as the middle school students split from the high school students for the day to go prepare for their concert. The middle school guest conductor was Mr. Jay Althouse, director of Choral Music for Susquehannock School District and Artistic Director of the Bel Air Community Chorus. Mr. Althouse chose a repertoire for the middle schoolers consisting of six songs that showcased their talents.
The guest conductor for the high school choir was Mr. Jonathan Kraemer, artistic Director of the Brandywine Singers, Director of Choral Studies at Immaculata University, and choral director of the West Chester Area School District. He chose a repertoire of eight diverse songs in an array of style from lyrical, spirituals, and renaissance-style music. With Mr. Kraemer’s expertise, the high school choir was able to pull off these difficult pieces beautifully within three days.
On Saturday morning, both choirs grouped off for last-minute rehearsals to perfect their pieces for the concert later that afternoon. After a morning of hard work, the students, their teachers, and the guest conductors all gathered for a delicious banquet prepared for them. Once the students were done socializing and getting dressed up for the concert, the middle school choir kids took their places on the stage with Mr. Althouse to showcase what they had achieved in the last three days. The high school choir then made their way to the stage and stood in mixed voice parts to challenge themselves even further and demonstrate the skills they had improved on throughout the festival. Both choirs did an immaculate job and extracted thunderous applause from the crowd. The high school choir even received a standing ovation after singing through their repertoire. With a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, this year’s County Chorus Festival for Adams County was a complete success.
Images by Stephen Swartzbaugh