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Twenty three singers from the Big Canoe Chapel before their performance.

Big Canoe Chapel Choir performs in Carnegie Hall

By Carl Deane

Twenty-three members of the Big Canoe Chapel Choir joined 11 other choral groups from around the county on to perform “Requiem” composed by Gabriel Fauré on June 24 at Carnegie Hall. The combined choir numbered 185 people.

The Big Canoe Chapel singers included Judy Bellenger, Lynda Case, Carl Deane, Fran Farias, Sue Hauseman, Lamar Helms, Sylvia Helms, Alison Holmes, Sam Holmes, Janet Larsen, Patsy Long, Cathy Palmer, Chuck Palmer, Bill Pittillo, Suzy Pattillo, Kay Smith, Eric Tippins, Rhonda Webster, Cathy Wentworth, Jerry Wentworth, Ken Williams and Patsy Wohlwend.

This was not the first appearance by a Big Canoe singing group in Carnegie Hall—one of the nation’s most prestigious musical venues. In 2017, Big Canoe Chapel’s Men’s Chorus also sang before a large audience there. Based on their success and the recordings of the full choir performances, the chapel’s men’s chorus was again invited to sing this year. As a member of the group, I can attest to the fact that it was a tremendous experience.

We were invited by Manhattan Concert Productions, a group that puts on various performances at Carnegie Hall as well as other musical venues around the nation and Europe. Our performance was just a part of the total program. The first group to perform were the Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco, which was joined by the National Children’s Festival Chorus. Both groups were tremendously talented and a big hit with the audience.

After the intermission, our combined choruses sang the 35-minute, seven-movement requiem in Latin. It too was well received by the audience and a thrill for each of the participants.

The Big Canoe group left for New York on Thursday, June 21. On Friday, we started the morning with a four-hour rehearsal led by Dr. Barry Williamson, our director and the director of the Texas Bach Festival.

Taking 185 people who had never performed together and molding them into a unit in two days to perform at Carnegie Hall is a challenging task. The next day, another four-hour rehearsal. On Sunday, the day of the concert, the choir had another one-hour rehearsal—this time with the orchestra, which was also our sound check trial.

The choir then took seats in the upper balcony to observe the first two performances and then we headed back stage during the intermission to prepare for the last performance.

All Big Canoe participants were unanimous in their appreciation of the opportunity to participate in the program. Congratulations go to the director of music for the Big Canoe Chapel, Rev. V. Lamar Helms. His most challenging task was making sure each of his group knew where to be, when to be there, as well as getting them on the busses that he arranged to haul each choir member and their non-performer guests to the venues. The chance to perform in Carnegie Hall was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that each participant will not forget.

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The world famous stage in Carnegie Hall

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Chapel singers rehearse for Carnegie Hall performance. Photos by Lori Bailey.

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