Choir members perform at Carnegie Hall - Republic-Times | News

Choir members perform at Carnegie Hall

By on July 3, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Pictured are the members of the St. Paul United Church of Christ choir who performed at Carnegie Hall. Front row, from left, are Brenda Humphrey and Vickie Gardner. Back row, from left, are Gary Humphrey, Renae Mayer, Linda Mueller and Jeff Clinebell. (submitted photo)

Members of the St. Paul United Church of Christ choir in Waterloo recently had the opportunity to perform a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The group got the chance after Distinguished Concerts International New York invited The Collinsville Chorale, a community chorus group, to participate in a concert with other groups from the St. Louis area. 

Although that would not seem like an invitation to any St. Paul members, it functioned that way because St. Paul UCC member and Collinsville Chorale Executive Director Gary Humphrey decided to give his fellow church members an opportunity.

“I made the offer available to anyone in the church choir who wanted to go,” said Gary, who is also director of music ministries at St. Paul UCC. “It was basically just whoever could afford the trip and had the time free to do it.”

The church members who performed in addition to Gary are Jeff Clinebell, Linda Mueller, Vicki Gardner, Renae Mayer and Brenda Humphrey.

Several of the singers had performed at Carnegie Hall in 2006 for a similar event, but for Mueller this marked her first time.

“The first time you come in you’re kind of in awe of the building, the orchestra and the composer,” said Mueller, who serves as  administration coordinator at St. Paul UCC.  “You’re just kind of awestruck that you’re actually in Carnegie Hall.”

DCINY regularly gives smaller groups the opportunity to perform on big stages. 

The Collinsville Chorale was one of five groups invited to perform at the concert.

The other groups came from Missouri and included the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus. 

In total, 300 singers made up the choir. A 30-piece orchestra accompanied the vocalists. 

“Three hundred singers anytime onstage is a pretty big deal,” Gary said. “Then you add a 30-piece orchestra and a pretty packed house and it’s a pretty amazing experience.”

The ensemble performed a new work by prominent composer Mark Hayes called Spirit Suite, which includes nine pieces. It was the world premiere of the work.

Gary said working with Hayes was a good experience. 

“It’s fantastic working with him,” Gary said. “He’s a very, very talented person. It was a very wonderful thing.”

In preparation for the performance, the group rehearsed sporadically for months. 

Once they arrived in New York, the vocalists rehearsed for four hours on the two days prior to performing. They conducted a final, short rehearsal before the concert, which took place the evening of June 17. 

Gary, who has performed at Carnegie Hall before, said it still stirs emotions in him.

“Everybody handles it different,” he explained. “You’re in a historic building being places where famous people have been and done things. It’s kind of overwhelming and surreal.”

Mueller was one of those people who the historic setting affected differently. 

“It was a great honor to play there,” she said. “You go in there and the people you talk with all talk about it being an honor. For a musician who’s trained classically for church worship, it was an honor to go in there and see where so many other talented musicians have played.”

When they were not preparing for the play, choir members took time to sightsee. 

The Waterloo contingent saw two Broadway plays, toured Radio City Music Hall and visited Rockefeller Center, among other things. 

Gary said the group may have an opportunity to go on another trip in the next few years. The next trip might even take them overseas. 

James Moss