In its third year, the annual LCPS All-County Honors Chorus concert is finding its rhythm.
“It definitely gets easier every year,” Beth Vance, a concert organizer and music teacher at Southwood Elementary School, said.
It’s also becoming more of an event for the some 250 students who will perform Saturday, March 5. The concert begins at 2 p.m. at the Kinston-Lenoir County Performing Arts Center at Kinston High School. Admission is free.
“I think the kids are excited about it,” Vance said. “I have some kids who have done it for two years. They look forward to it, work hard and enjoy making music with the whole school community, not just their school.”
The chorus represents students from all 12 LCPS elementary and middle schools. The fourth and fifth graders who comprise the elementary group will perform four songs, as will the middle school students. The two groups come together for the finale, a powerful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The concert format, unchanged from the first year, is part of the continuity that has made this big undertaking more manageable for LCPS music teachers like Vance.
The practice schedule devised two years ago has proved effective. After practicing for months at their own schools – Vance’s students started in December – all elementary students come together for the first time the day before the concert. Middle school students also practice as a group then, but at a separate location. The two groups rehearse together the morning of the concert.
Veteran accompanists Sheila Miller, music teacher at Pink Hill Elementary, and Jacob Mewborn, director of music ministries at Queen Street Church in Kinston, help keep this process on track. Both have worked with the concert as accompanists – Miller with the elementary group and Mewborn with the middle schoolers – since its inception.
New this year will be visiting conductors Jeannine Dumond of Guilford County Public Schools, who will lead the elementary students, and Dr. Jeffrey Ward of East Carolina University, conducting the middle school group.
The program, while still a mix of popular and classical songs, is trending a little more to the classical this year, according to Vance.
“It’s stuff they don’t hear on the radio,” she said. “It definitely broadens their appreciation of music and makes them better musicians because it’s more difficult. For elementary students, it prepares them to go into the middle school choral setting.”
If the young musicians labor over the music, it’s a labor of love, from audition to practice to performance. “The kids love the songs we’re doing,” Vance said. “They go home and practice and come back and sing their hearts out.”
It’s a labor of love for Vance, Banks Elementary music teacher Christy White and others behind the performance, but thankfully one that’s getting easier.
“The first year I was very anxious because I didn’t know how it would go,” Vance said. “The second year we had learned from our mistakes and, in the third year, I feel more comfortable than I have in the past, even though I’m sure there will be things we didn’t anticipate.”
Going in, though, she knows there’s one thing she can count on. “When you have 250 young people singing at the same time, it’s going to be exciting.”