Ending on a High Note

Ending on a High Note

To say that the pandemic has disrupted how events normally unfold would be preaching to the choir.

 Even so, auditionees for district choir ended this year on a high note.

On Monday, Nov. 30, senior Andrew Battaglia, senior Gwyneth Lauzier, senior Sarah Pettineo, senior Nicholas Schaffer, junior Jillian Miller and sophomore Audrey Kim qualified for PMEA districts.

For their auditions, the singers prepared segments from two songs, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus” (“Like a Deer” in Latin) and Johannes Brahms’ “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place”. Preparing two songs is standard of previous years, but that was where the similarities ended.

Gwyneth Lauzier auditioning.

In traditional years, all competing students in the district gathered in a school on a Saturday morning. “Everyone would be grouped by their sections, like soprano or alto, and we’d be called back in groups to audition,” said Gwyneth. “But this year, we had three days to record and submit [from our homes], which is crazy, because normally you find out what section you’re singing minutes before you audition.”

Andrew  Battaglia auditioning.

“There’s usually a festival,” said Andrew. “All the district qualifiers get together and sing. But they canceled that this year.”

Qualifiers had different opinions on the new format.

“I wasn’t planning on auditioning if it were in-person, so it worked out,” said Andrew.

Audrey said, “It was good because we had as many tries as possible. But that meant it had to be perfect, because everyone else could refilm, too.”

Sarah had similar thoughts. “For me, it was better this way. I suffer a lot from performance anxiety, so it

Sarah Pettineo auditioning.

was good to do a couple takes to get the nerves out. But I really had to be on my game and send in my best, because everyone else was in the same boat.”

“I think video auditions are harder. There’s always something that goes wrong. And there were weird things we had to include, like having an analog clock in the back to show that we weren’t splicing our videos,” Gwyneth said. “What lacked this year [for me] was the human connection. Districts auditions are a bonding experience, whether you make it or not.”

Nicholas had similar thoughts. “There was no opportunity to meet the other auditionees, and that is part of the experience, meeting other students from the county who share your passion for choral singing.”

Not all aspects of the changed format were disliked, however.

“It was a blessing not to have sight-singing,” Gwyneth said. “Normally, judges gave us four to eight measures of a song unfamiliar to us, and we’d have 30 seconds to look at it and then just do our best.”

Audrey Kim auditioning.

“The advantage of this year was that [the PMEA] got rid of regionals altogether. Instead of having to go through that first, we can audition for states,” said Andrew.

“Compared to my sophomore year, there was definitely less competition this year,” Nicholas said.

Despite any bumps in the road, singers reflected fondly on their experience.

Audrey said,  “For my first year, this was a good experience. I’m grateful for Ms. Lagan [the choir director]. We had a lot of Teams meetings, and she helped us with pronunciation and phrasing.”

“The auditions that I’ve had in the past have really prepared me better for my college auditions coming forward. Districts, for me, is as advanced as it is,” said Gwyneth. “They remind me that you can be as prepared as you can but there’s always someone better; and that’s ok, just work on yourself and become the best version of yourself as you can.”

Nicholas Schaffer auditioning.

Andrew said, “This is my first year auditioning for districts. I was happy, and a little surprised. It’s kind of funny, because freshman year I didn’t think I’d be doing choir. A lot changed over four years.”

“I look forward to districts each year,” said Nicholas. “It’s an honor to qualify.”

“I’m grateful that I got in this year. I’ve worked really hard for it,” Sarah said. “I’ve grown a lot as a musician over the last four years. It means a lot to me to be able to demonstrate what I’m capable of and be recognized for it, especially as a senior.”

The next step for the singers will be auditioning for All-State Choir. “Districts is really an audition for an audition for states,” Audrey said. “So we’re all looking forward to January.”