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On the road to Nashville . . . Berthold High School junior Nick Helfrich, left,
and senior Rachel Birdsall, right, will be among the four North Dakota musicians
selected to perform with the All-National Mixed Chorus at the National Association
for Music Education conference scheduled for Nashville, TN, October 27-30.
Birdsall's three years and Helfrich's two years as North Dakota All-State choir
members motivated the two singers to audition for the national honor choir.
By Caroline Downs
Two Berthold High School musicians will perform in Nashville at the 2013 National Association for Music Education All-National Honors Ensembles Concert scheduled for October 30th.
Rachel Birdsall, senior, and Nick Helfrich, junior, were selected to perform with the NAfME All-National Mixed Chorus. “I’ve always wanted to go to nationals,” Birdsall said. “I started trying out for honor choirs in 8th grade. This is a way to top it all off.”
She and Helfrich submitted video auditions for the All-National Chorus last April. “To be eligible to audition, they had to be members of the North Dakota All-State Chorus,” said Dawna Helfrich, Berthold Public School music teacher.
Nick Helfrich performed the 17th-century Italian song “Vittoria, mi core!” by Giacomo Carissimi, with which he earned Star ratings at the regional and state music festivals. Birdsall sang another Italian song, “Sebben, crudele,” written by Antonio Caldara. She received a Star rating at the regional music festival and a “1” rating at state with the piece.
Like Birdsall, Helfrich had a goal to sing with a national chorus. “I’ve made it to all the honor choirs I’ve auditioned for these past four years,” he said. “I wanted to see if I would make it to nationals, if I was on that level.”
The good news came in July, with Helfrich selected as one of the Bass I performers and Birdsall joining the Soprano II singers.
The music for the national performance arrived last week, so the two students have been working with their teacher to review the seven songs. “We have four foreign language songs,” Helfrich said, “including Greek, Indian and Latin.”
Some of the songs will be performed a cappella, while the others are accompanied. One of the choral selections is “Take Me to the Water,” composed by their guest conductor Rollo A. Dilworth, Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities and Music Education at the North Park University School of Music in Chicago, Illinois.
Rehearsals for the national performance begin October 27th at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with about 350 high school students participating in the Mixed Chorus. “That’ll be different,” Birdsall said, comparing the number to the 150 voices in North Dakota’s All-State Chorus and the 47 voices currently joining her for choir classes at Berthold High School.
About 670 high school musicians will participate in the entire event, with other students performing in the All-National Jazz Band, Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band. The Honors Ensembles Concert is part of the program for the NAfME National In-Service Conference for musicians and music educators across the country.
According to Dawna Helfrich, only two other students from North Dakota were accepted for the All-National Ensembles, both in the Mixed Chorus.
“I’m looking forward to getting together with everyone that’s in this and performing all the songs,” Nick Helfrich said.
“It’s going to be exciting seeing other [singers] and seeing Nashville,” Birdsall added.
While rehearsals will be intense for the first three days of the conference, the students get to have a little fun in Nashville, too. Dawna Helfrich said the young musicians will attend a show at the Grand Ole Opry House and see a performance of the new Disney Musical Tarzan.
Birdsall and Nick Helfrich are both still considering the roles music and performing will play in their futures as they think about college plans. They also confessed personal preferences for country music, which makes the upcoming trip to Nashville even more appealing.
The two students and Dawna Helfrich expressed appreciation to the Berthold Economic Development Corporation, which sponsored the registration fees and plane tickets for the students, and to the rest of the Berthold community for the support shown toward the local music department.
Birdsall and Nick Helfrich will share that gratitude through music during the school’s fall music concert scheduled for Tuesday, October 22nd. The pair plans to sing the duet “From This Valley,” written and recorded by country music duo The Civil Wars.