In addition, they received a perfect score for diction and “general effect,” which is how the choir appears and communicates confidence, energy and excitement with the audience.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the performance because it truly showed how much our girls have worked and grown together,” said Choir Director Andrew Alvarez. “It all came together in a very magical way on stage. It was their best performance of the year.”
The WorldStrides Festival of Gold in Chicago in early April brought together some of the most elite high school choirs in the nation and Canada for a weekend of music appreciation, performance and expert adjudication.
For the Mayfield Women’s Ensemble, the trip culminated months of rehearsals and learning highly complex, college-level music that showcased their sophistication and beautifully rich and nuanced tone.
“We all know here at Mayfield that our choir is very special,” Mr. Alvarez said. “But to have the privilege to participate in a festival of this caliber shows just how outstanding the Women’s Ensemble is on a national level. We are all so deeply grateful to the Mayfield community who supported this transformational trip.”
Samantha Kennedy ’19, speaking on behalf of the choir, called the trip an “amazing experience.”
“Our girls left everything we had out on stage and none of it would have been possible without Mr. Alvarez,” she said. “He loves to tease us, but I don’t think any of us would argue about how much he cares about us. We all know that we have the best choir director ever!”
During a key pre-performance coaching session, the 33-member choir received both high compliments and helpful advice from Professor Donald Brinegar. His extensive choral experience includes serving as the former Choral Director at Pasadena City College, a visiting lecturer at USC, UCLA, and Pomona College, among other universities, along with conducting numerous professional choirs.
At the conclusion of “Weep No More” by composer David Childs, Prof. Brinegar was so impressed with the performance that he recommended Mayfield record it for the publishing company’s website as a “reference recording” for choral directors to hear when considering the song for their own choirs.
“I think you should be the reference point for this song,” Prof. Brinegar said. “I don’t think I have ever heard a more beautiful sound on trebles singing this. Your choice of tone is just spot on.”
On Monday morning—dressed in their formal maroon gowns, pearl and crystal necklaces, hair up—the Women’s Ensemble performed before a panel of three nationally recognized choir experts who conduct and teach at the universities throughout the country.
Overall we scored a 92 out of 100, a solid “A” grade if this were a report card! The judges gave our choir high marks and perfect scores in several categories:
Our blend of individual voices
Unified sound and vowel purity
Perfect diction of all consonants, vowels and clarity of words
Excellence in balance and contrasting dynamics
Their program included three songs, “Laura Sion,” composed by George Orban, “Alleluia Cantate Domino,” by Ko Matsushita and “Weep No More,” by David Childs. All the songs are modern pieces that involve complicated syncopation and dissonance.
A choir favorite, “Weep No More” draws its beauty from wistful melodies, rich harmonies, and an ethereal piano accompaniment. A final performance was held at Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College, a premier destination in the Chicago region for musical performance that is known for its fine acoustics.
“I wanted to challenge the girls more than they have ever been challenged and introduce them to beautiful pieces that are rarely performed by high school level choirs because of the difficulty,” Mr. Alvarez said.
He certainly scored on that category. All three judges awarded a ten for the degree of difficulty and the quality of the pieces chosen by Mr. Alvarez.
The choir members said they were honored to perform at such a high level with other elite choirs.
“It was an amazing experience singing and listening to other schools perform as well as bonding with my Mayfield sisters,” said choir member Gabrielle Owen ’21. “Mr. Alvarez has inspired me to be positive and to do my best. He inspires the entire choir through his talented conducting skills, his joyful and humorous personality and his passion for music.”
Head of School Kate Morin, a classically trained musician and cellist, joined the trip late Saturday, hopping on a plane immediately following Mayfield Alumnae Homecoming! She said such choir festivals are important educationally because our students learn from listening to others.
“It’s wonderful for our girls to hear other groups like them who are singing at the highest level,” said Mrs. Morin said. “Our choir is a gem and I’m so grateful that they had this experience outside of our school setting to sing and develop a sisterhood based on shared interests.”
Mr. Alvarez is already looking for next year’s choir repertoire and is excited to work with the girls in the few areas where they did not receive perfect score, albeit by only one to three points!
“I went to keep refining and refining our sound,” he said. “And I want to make sure every piece we do is a masterpiece performance.”
That’s the bar at Mayfield. Brava! Brava!