It’s been 28 and 25 years since our two sons graduated from East Grand Forks Senior High School and I absolutely love going back there for events.
Such was the case Tuesday night (Nov. 1) when the concert choirs of Senior High and Crookston High School wrapped up their fall choral music festival with a concert right there on the same stage my sons sang and danced on during concerts and musicals. It was nostalgic for me as I thought back to such a beautiful time of our lives.
Tuesday evening was especially fun because my good friend, Kathryn Erickson, a senior at Crookston High School, is a member of that choir. Her mom, Diane Erickson, also a good friend of mine, called to tell me this was taking place.
Our mutual friend, Marlys, and I, met Diane at Senior High and we three were there with bells on!
This festival was started 52 years ago by three choral directors. One of them was the late Don Danielson who was so dearly loved at Senior High. The other two were Garfield Reichert of Crookston and Bryant Ulseth, Thief River Falls. The purpose all these years has been to promote choral music and to give students an opportunity to sing with and hear other choirs. Other schools have taken part in the past but this year it was only East Grand Forks and Crookston.
Both choirs are awesome. Shelley Bares directs the East Grand Forks choir and they sang, “Shenandoah,” and the minstrel song, “Ching-a-Ring Chaw.”
Director Belinda Fjeld chose “Old King Cole,” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” for Crookston’s choir.
That last title totally describes one young man from Senior High’s choir who caught my gaze and held it throughout the evening. I was delighted to spot him in the corridors after the concert – still bedecked in a Green Wave green choir robe. I wonder! Did a son of mine wear that robe?
Ruben Flores is this young man’s name. He’s a sophomore at Senior High. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone that age so totally caught up and wholeheartedly enthusiastic about singing. Even off the risers and in normal conversation, Ruben’s eyes seem to dance and sing.
Ruben tells me, “I’ve been singing since I was little, little, little. I like to think about this philosophy: You can’t be a really, really good singer without being somewhat of an actor. While acting you portray what your song is all about. We were talking about the pyramid of singing and at the top is artistry. I try to portray artistry. It’s relying on what you feel and you show that in your face and your body and how you portray a song.”
Can you tell this sophomore is also very well spoken?
Ruben formerly sang with Grand Cities Children’s choir under the direction of Melanie Popejoy and is currently studying with Maria Williams-Kennedy, director of Bel Canto Studio in Grand Forks.
Rebecca Raber, who teaches music in Fargo schools, was guest clinician during Tuesday’s festival. That evening, she directed the combined choirs as they sang, “O Occhi Manza Mia,” “City Called Heaven,” and “Ye Followers of the Lamb.”
I loved what Rebecca said to the audience before she picked up the baton and turned to face the mass choir.
“I try to get the kids to take risks and not be scared to be passionate with whatever they do. They have to represent that passion in their art, their music. One song has the idea of hope, another song the idea of devotion and the other is a song of love. I try to get them to express these things. It’s a risk but the reward is great if they don’t do it halfway.”
And then the sounds of more than 100 voices filled the Performing Arts Center and it was truly magnificent. Brian Sanchez, a sophomore from Crookston, so beautifully soloed during “City Called Heaven.”
Come to think of it — it was heaven – just to be there!