Meeker choir members perform at Carnegie Hall

The Meeker High School singing group joined about 170 students from five other schools to perform in New York City at Carnegie Hall Monday night. The folks representing MHS in the choir were: Leah Pool, Kolbi Franklin, Mikayla Cardile, Savana May, Brynlee Williams, Shelby Steele, Abigayle Rosendahl, choir instructor Jeff Hemingson, Jazzmyn Wakefield, Korey Hood, Delenn Mobley and Ridge Williams. Delenn Mobley Photo

MEEKER | Past and current members of the Meeker High School choir were in New York City to perform Monday at Carnegie Hall. The 12 Meekerites became part of a 180 voice choir accompanied by the New England Symphonic Ensemble.
This choir sang two pieces. The first was composed by Howard Hanson (1896–1981) who spent most of his life during the last century writing symphonies for the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York. It is reported that he was able to thrive because of the largesse of the Eastman Kodak Company and music lover George Eastman. The group sang Hanson’s arrangement “Song of Democracy” which was built on a poem by Walt Whitman (1819–1892).
Whitman’s poem, coincident to the Rio Blanco County Old Timers event here, was entitled “An Old Man’s Thoughts of School,” and was written for the 1874 dedication of a public school in Camden, NJ. As lyrics to Hanson’s “Song”, Whitman’s words have been described as “reading like a civics course in awkward prose pressing light nationalism and a sense of duty.” The musical piece was performed at the inaugural concert for President Richard Nixon in 1969.
Music historian Matthew Black described his participation, more than 30 years ago, singing this music in a large, multi-sourced choir much like our Meeker kids were part of this week. He wrote that the experience was alarming, that it aged him and his fellow singers about 10 years. “It was like,” he said, “our adult selves had come back to sing through us. The words of the music turned into this massive single organism that was massively bigger than all of us…..the experience broadened my world and my mind…I was part of something bigger and I was capable of much more than I gave myself credit for…teamed with strange kids from odd [other] towns, I understood what humanity was capable of…all we had in common was the ability to carry a tune and that someone had believed in us enough to put our name on a list…but together we were far more than our individual selves.”
One wonders if our kids will come home with similar feelings. The Whitman lyrics, Black wrote, are about “heavy stuff” like “reflection, global responsibility, empire, hopes and being an example.” Monte Atkinson, choir director at Colorado Mesa University, conducted the combined choir for this work.
The second piece performed by the choir Monday night was “Jubilate Deo” by Dan Forrest, a contemporary composer born in 1978. Forrest has been described variously as having “an undoubted gift for writing beautiful music…that is truly magical, with magnificent, very cleverly constructed sound sculpture and superb writing…full of spine-tingling moments.”
The “Jubilate Deo” is said to bring to life the global aspect of the traditional Psalm 100 text, “O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands,” by setting it in seven different languages and drawing from a wide spectrum of musical influences. Movements include liturgical Latin, intertwined Hebrew and Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Zulu, Spanish, Song of the Earth, and a closing movement mixing most of these. The result , it’s said, is a stunning global celebration of joy, as all the earth sings as one: “omnis terra, jubilate.”
Text messages sent back home indicated the group received a standing ovation Monday. Tracy Resseguie, choir director at Staly High School, conducted Jubilate which itself takes nearly 45 minutes to perform.
Participating with Meeker were Doherty HS, Colorado Springs; Colorado Mesa University and the Western Colorado Chorale and Community Singers, Grand Junction; Staly HS, Kansas City, Mo.; and Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
This performance opportunity is created and run by MidAmerica Productions, Inc., headquartered on Broadway in NYC. In business since 1984, MidAmerica is considered the foremost independent producer of choral concerts and choral ensembles in Carnegie Hall. The company also does productions in numerous U.S. cities and countries around the world.
Iris Franklin, Heather Franklin, Kyle Eckes and MHS teacher Kathleen Kelley accompanied the Meeker contingent to New York. The group was expected to be back home Wednesday.