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Artist Spotlight: Santa Monica High School Madrigal Ensemble Performs

Students from Santa Monica High School will be joining young vocalists from 28 other regional schools for Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 19th annual High School Choir Festival to take place at Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Friday, April 18. The chance to perform the works of Vivaldi, Fauré, Piazolla, Sitt, and Halloran as part of a 1,000 mass-voiced choir directed by Grant Gershon of the Chorale should be an honor enough, but Samohi’s singers have gone a step further. The Madrigal Ensemble has been selected as one of four student groups to perform an individual showcase inside the prestigious concert venue.

“We’re really excited about being a showcase choir, which is great,” says conductor Jeffe Huls, who has taught choir within the SMMUSD for nine years and has been at Samohi for three. “They’ve been working really hard and they are a really talented group of kids and probably my best group that I’ve had here so far.”

One of seven groups that comprise the school’s choral studies program, the Madrigal Ensemble is reserved for juniors and seniors of advanced skill. An audition is required and students are expected to be capable of sight-singing as well as performing a repertoire that involves proper pronunciation of Latin, Italian, German, and French in addition to English. The Madrigals give a minimum of four concerts a year, featuring work that ranges from the Renaissance to the 20th century. At the High School Choir Festival, the ensemble will be performing Hosanna to the Son of David by Orlando Gibbons, Daemon Irrepit Calidus by Gyorgy Orban, and I’m Gonna Sing ’til the Spirit Moves In My Heart by Moses Hogan.

The Madrigal Ensemble, which toured Italy last year, meets five days a week for hour-long practice sessions.

“In the course of a day, we’ll tackle anywhere from three to sometimes five pieces,” says senior Nora Gilbert-Hamerling. “It really depends on what the focus is that day. Sometimes we focus on perfecting vowels of one piece or getting the dynamics of another piece, sometimes rehearsals are more about the details of the piece, and sometimes it’s more about learning the music.”

The Madrigals learned that they had been accepted into the Choir Festival at the beginning of the school year and have been working on their spotlight performance since December while also tackling Carmina Burana for the Masterworks Concert that took place on April 11 (see story on page 24). And while the group has other concerts in the near future, including the For The Arts benefit at the end of April and the upcoming Cathedral Classics showcase, the High School Choir Festival is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime event.“I don’t think the prestige of Disney Hall is matched by many venues,” says Gilbert-Hamerling. “I’ve been to a few concerts there and have been blown away and am really looking forward to being on that stage.”

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