Bradley Vogel, director of choral activities at Tabor College, said he couldn’t have been more pleased with his choir’s Carnegie Hall debut in New York City on Sunday, Feb. 17.
The Tabor Concert Choir, enhanced with the addition of vocal students from Berean Academy and Wellington High School, was accompanied by the New England Symphonic Ensemble.
“It went very well,” Vogel said upon their return. “There were no problems, things went very cleanly, we were well prepared and the orchestra came together as it needed to.”
The choir took the opportunity seriously. Assisting Vogel were Sara Morris, director of the Berean Singers, and Jessica Caldwell, director of the WHS choir. Both had studied and sang for Vogel while students at Tabor College.
“We had seven hours of rehearsal the two days prior to the concert,” Vogel said. “Then we had another one-hour rehearsal with the orchestra, and an additional hour of rehearsal just myself with the orchestra on Saturday night.
“That kind of preparation time helped bring the three choirs together, as we became cohesive and fine-tuned things,” he added. “By the second rehearsal, it really came together. I was really pleased with how the group matured and became very musically expressive. The feedback I got from them that they really enjoyed doing it.”
When the choir wasn’t rehearsing, students had free time to attend Broadway shows and operas, all within easy walking distance from their hotel in Times Square. The group also experienced the 9/11 Memorial and the One World Trade Center. Following their performance on Sunday, they loaded buses to take a cruise along the Hudson River showcasing the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline.
“We also had some subway experiences that were fun,” Vogel added. “I think the whole package was a really neat thing for them to see.”
Vogel said he was impressed with the way the Carnegie Hall staff met the needs of the group.
“I think the word I would use is simply ‘professional’ — the way they treated us and the way they handled how you get on the stage and off the stage. All of that was managed by them.”
Vogel said he was allowed to choose the choir’s performance piece.
“They have a pretty long list of things that are part of their repertoire,” Vogel said. “A number of them I’ve done, and a number of them are done a lot. I wanted something different.”
Vogel’s choice was, “Sunrise Mass” by Ola Gjeilo, a young composer who lives in New York City.
“It’s a newer work, it’s a little bit unusual in that it’s not your typical long melodies all the time,” Vogel said. “It’s very sonic. It even has places where one chord is still playing and a different chord comes in. They overlap and create the sense of tension and release throughout. It’s supposed to be ethereal. It has to grow on you as a singer because you don’t hear everything that’s happening.”
As the choir prepared to take the stage on Sunday, they followed their pre-concert tradition.
“Before we give a concert, we get in a circle, we pray and then we sing the chorus, ‘I Love You Lord and I Lift My Voice,’ Vogel said. “They did that on their own. For me, it was very moving that they maintained the normal focus of what we do, and they took that with them to Carnegie Hall. It was very, very special to see that attitude and sense of ministry within that venue.”
Vogel said he was pleased with the choir’s performance — and so were choir members.
“They were very excited,” he said. “To a person, they had a great, great experience. And musically, the whole thing was good and very pleasing. It just went well.”
Their New York City experience was underwritten with donations exceeding $65,000.
“That’s an impressive figure for no brick-and-mortar,” Vogel said. “It came in to support the program and support the students. It came from choir alums and supporters of Tabor. That support was just as rewarding as the actual performance. The desire on the part of donors was to give the students an experience of a lifetime, and they really did.”
The NYC combined choir reprised its Carnegie Hall performance with a free concert as a “thank you” for the generous support from the Tabor, Berean and Wellington constituencies. The performance began at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 10, in the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts on the Tabor campus in Hillsboro.
Vogel added “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber to the March 10 concert to give the orchestra an opportunity to perform on its own, and to present an iconic work for the audience. The Richert Auditorium was nearly at capacity that night.
Photo Credit Michael Violago