By REBECCA HAZEN
The Dade County High School mixed chorus won Best in Class for the Class AA Classification after performing at Festival Disney, a competitive music festival at Walt Disney World.
The mixed chorus group, comprised of both males and females, have performed multiple times at Walt Disney World, including at the holiday Candlelight Processional, and also at Universal’s Stars Performance program. This was the first time the group attended Festival Disney since 2011.
“Our travel usually happens in December. We were going to try to do a big city trip in 2021, and 2020 threw a wrench in that plan. It was too soon to try to travel in December, but when it became clear that things were starting to look better, I began to plan this trip. I felt like they were ready for this national competition,” Gabrielle Haston, Director of Choral Activities at Dade County High School and Middle School, said.
There are qualifications for performing at Festival Disney, including the recommendation that the music groups have received superior ratings from local performance evaluations. The mixed chorus has had superior ratings for the last several years.
The group traveled to Florida on Thursday, April 7. They were able to spend time in the parks, in addition to their performance and an awards ceremony that Saturday. They were also able to spend Sunday in the parks, before driving overnight and returning to Dade County on Monday morning.
“I told them that we work hard but fun is just as important,” Haston said.
At the event, the students had a 15-minute warm up on the stage, and then had 20 minutes to perform. They performed: “God So Loved the World” by Noel Goemanne, “Nothin’ Gonna Stumble My Feet” by John Parker and Greg Gilpin, and “Turlutte Acadienne Montrealaise” by Marie-Claire Saindon.
“Our third piece was a mouth reel. It’s like a fiddle reel but for your mouth. It is so cool. It also has a foot stomping rhythm that three of our singers performed while the choir was singing,” Haston said.
After the performance, an adjudicator held a 15-minute workshop with the choir. The adjudicators were Dr. Kevin Fenton from Florida State University, Dr. John V. Sinclair from Rollins College and Dr. Mitos Andaya Hart from Temple University.
“Our adjudicator spent the first 10 minutes talking about how much he liked our third piece and wondering how we learned it. It is very complicated rhythmically,” Haston said. “Then he got us to try different things, like leaning into the rhythm of a note differently. That was cool for them to learn from a college level professor.”
Mixed chorus performer Ethan Cloud, a senior and the baritone section leader, said that his favorite song was “Nothin’ Gonna Stumble My Feet.” Macy Linder, a senior and the soprano section leader, loved “Turlutte Acadienne Montrealaise.”
“The reason why I love that song is because no matter what has come our way we have persevered and did not let COVID-19 get in the way of our success,” Cloud said.
“It is unlike anything that I have ever learned or performed before. The intricate patterns of the motives were my biggest enemy at first, but once each one was broken down, it all clicked into place,” Linder said.
The mixed chorus ended up winning Best in Class, for Class AA Division. There were awards for different classes, which is determined by the number of students enrolled in the school. They received a score of 92.8 out of 100.
“We practiced every day and put in hard work for months to be able to perform at this level. Also, I had prayed before in advance. This meant the world to me that we won,” Cloud said. I knew that we would be successful because we have an amazing chorus director and passion from the whole choir.”
“I will never forget the moment when the announcer called our name to tell us we had won our division,” Linder said. “At that moment, all the hard work and endless hours of practicing was all being recognized. Mrs. Haston has instilled in us from day one that anyone can get on stage and sing all the right notes and rhythms. Still, not everyone can sing with emotion, feel behind what they sing, and look like they mean it.”
“I am so incredibly proud of them to be able to compete on this national level in front of renowned conductors,” Haston said. “One of my favorite memories from the trip was the joy all over their faces when they announced that we got first place. It was utter joy because they had worked so hard for this goal, and they accomplished it.”