Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2001

DHS Madrigals perform for musical royalty

April 26, 2001

When he joined De Soto High School's Madrigals last fall, Paul Seaman said he never imagined the experiences it would afford him.

The 24-member chorale's eventful year was topped off last Wednesday when it performed at the International Conference on the Exceptional Child at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo. The keynote speaker was one of the most famous voices of the past 50 years, former Metropolitan Opera soprano Beverly Sills.

"We knew we'd have big performances, but I never expected anything like this," said Seaman, a junior at DHS.

The prospect of performing with so prestigious a singer in the audience was enough to give Mary Etta Copeland, the group's seasoned director, a bout of performance anxiety.

"I had a sense of excitement and nervousness," she said. "I've never given a performance with someone of that stature in the audience."

Junior David Davis said he saw the opportunity as a privilege.

"To have one of the best singers in the world hear you sing, it's kind of like George Brett watching you play baseball," he said.

The Madrigals sang the national anthems of the United States and Canada. Adding to Copeland's jitters was the difficult arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner the Madrigals performed.

"It's a very challenging arrangement," Copeland said. "It has eight parts, rather than the four parts of the standard version."

The arrangement was written by Kansas City composer Brad Printz. During a visit to DHS a week before the performance, the composer worked with the Madrigals.

"It was the first time he'd ever heard his song performed," senior Penny Teater said. "He helped us work on things we would have never thought of."

Copeland said her jitters disappeared after the students rehearsed the song one last time before their performance.

The rehearsal may have quelled Copleland's nerves, but Teater said the students had to overcome another new experience.

"It was the largest crowd I've ever performed in front of," she said.

When the DHS singers met briefly with Sills before the performance, the diva wished them luck. Copeland said she was much more impressed with what Sills said in her speech when she urged those blessed with a rare gift to stretch themselves beyond what is expected of them.

"That is exactly what we did with that rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner," Copeland said. "We could have performed the old four-part version, but we took it one step beyond.

"That's what De Soto students like to do, and that's why I like my job."

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