School Spotlight: Rosemount High School Concert Choir

by Claire Philpott, Minnesota Public Radio
September 17, 2013
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — To celebrate students returning to school, Classical MPR is launching School Spotlight. Each Tuesday in September, an outstanding student music ensemble will be featured on Classical MPR. Watch for other ensembles to be highlighted throughout the school year.

Through School Spotlight, Classical MPR hopes to share the great music being made in Minnesota schools.

The audio featured today is from the 2013 MMEA mid-winter clinic performance of the Rosemount High School Concert Choir, directed by Steven Albaugh.

7:15 a.m.

  • My Spirit Sang All Day by Gerald Finzi
  • Heartland by Gary Fry, featuring Patti Drew, penny whistle; Kevin Carroll, bodhrán; David McKoskey, guitar
7:15 p.m.

  • How Can I Keep from Singing arranged by Taylor Davis, featuring Laura Sandham, oboe; Conor O'Brien, violin

Active for more than 75 years, the Rosemount High School Concert Choir is the longest-running concert choir in Independent School District 196. This 74-voice auditioned ensemble is made up of students in grades 11 and 12 and meets daily for 50 minutes.

It is a good thing the students of the choir can meet so often, for they are very busy throughout the school year with a variety of performances, festivals and community events within and outside the state of MN.

Within the Rosemount community, in addition to its regular concerts, the Concert Choir joins forces every year with the other ISD196 high school concert choirs to perform a major choral work. Past performances have included such works as Mozart's Te Deum, Fauré's Requiem, Rutter's Gloria and Whitacre's Five Hebrew Love Songs.

In past years, Rosemount Concert Choir has been selected to perform at many prestigious festivals and conventions. The ensemble has traveled to invitational choir festivals at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa; University of Wisconsin-Eau-Claire; and Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., as well as appearing at state and divisional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and the Minnesota Music Educators Association. The choir has also had the opportunity to work with Chanticleer, The Singers-Minnesota Choral Artists and world-renowned composer Morten Lauridsen. In March 2015, the choir has exciting plans to expand its travel beyond the Midwest with a tour in Europe.

The past school year, 2012-2013, was a poignant one for the Rosemount Concert Choir. Mr. Albaugh found it to be an incredibly powerful journey; not only did the choir have a very positive rehearsal and performance year, but something took place that made it unique in comparison to his previous twelve Concert Choirs at Rosemount.

In the years before last, the Concert Choir had always had an annual theme that it was supposed to keep in mind throughout the school year, proudly displaying this theme on custom t-shirts and folders. When Mr. Albaugh met with his incoming 2012-13 Concert Choir Presidents in August 2012 to plan for the annual overnight retreat, the officers announced unexpectedly that they would like to abandon the Concert Choir theme in favor of a monthly theme or word. Their argument was that they were disappointed that in the 2011-12 year, the theme had really only been discussed in September and then abandoned for the remainder of the year. Mr. Albaugh was a little skeptical until the choir presidents shared their idea for the first month's word: Dream. They wanted the choir to spend time discussing what type of person each individual wanted to be that year, what type of choir they wanted and what type of relationships they wanted to establish.

It became a student-driven, community-building activity in which the whole choir participated. Mr. Albaugh allowed 5 to 10 minutes of rehearsal time per week to have a student converse with the choir on the word of the month. Students who were non-elected officers were particularly encouraged to lead the discussions. Beginning with the word "dream" and ending with "legacy," these student-led discussions really brought the ensemble together throughout the year, creating "the closest feeling of family within a high school choir I have ever experienced," Mr. Albaugh writes. "If I had known the positive impact this would have on the 'building of community' within this choir, I would have done it years ago!"

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