School Spotlight: Wayzata High School Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra

by Claire Philpott, Minnesota Public Radio
April 1, 2014

St. Paul, Minn. — School Spotlight highlights outstanding Minnesota school- and student-music ensembles during the academic year. Through this feature, Classical MPR hopes to expose listeners to the great music being made by young musicians across the state, and to generate more support for music education.

The audio featured today comes from the Wayzata High School Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra December 2013 concert, where they performed the entire Gloria by Antonio Vivaldi. The Concert Choir is led by Rebecca Wyffels and the Chamber Orchestra by Mark Gitch.

Below are some audio selections:

  • 7:15 a.m. — Antonio Vivaldi: VII. Domine, Fili unigenite
  • 6:45 p.m. — Antonio Vivaldi: XI. Quoniam tu solus sanctus and XII. Cum Sancto Spiritu

Web-only audio:

  • Antonio Vivaldi: I. Gloria in excelsis Deo

In a school with more than 3,000 students, about of third of them participate in music. Wayzata High School music curriculum boasts six bands, seven choirs, four orchestras, and courses in music theory, music history, music technology and composition, making it sound more like a college music program than one in a high school. All of the choirs and orchestras meet every other day throughout the year.

The two ensembles featured today, the Concert Choir and the Chamber Orchestra (strings augmented by necessary wind, brass and percussion), perform a major choral orchestral work every year. Recent combined works have included Mozart's Coronation Mass and Bach's Magnificat, and this year the ensembles chose another great favorite: Vivaldi's Gloria.

With many members of the orchestra in Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) and Minnesota Youth Symphonies (MYS), and with choir and orchestra students in All-State ensembles as well as in local honor recitals and solo competitions, music is clearly a major part of many students' lives outside of school.

As an ensemble, the Concert Choir in particular has been able to take advantage of some incredible opportunities outside of regular school curriculum. Wayzata's Concert Choir has performed for the Minnesota chapter of the American Choral Directors Association conferences and has been a part of celebrating Magnum Chorum's 20th-anniversary season. The Concert Choir recently worked with Concordia Moorhead choir director Rene Clausen, and will be working with another celebrated director, Craig Hella Johnson — who leads Texas-based professional choir Conspirare — later this month.

The music program at Wayzata has clearly been providing its students with meaningful music experiences and memories for quite some time. A 2003 graduate and former choir member now working for Congressman Erik Paulsen, John-Paul Yates, sent the following to director Rebecca Wyffels last November:

I thought of you last Sunday and wanted to jot you a note. I was in Rome and went to mass at Saint Peter's with the Pope presiding. My ears perked up when the choir started singing Ubi Caritas, which we sang in Wayzata Concert Choir during my senior year. It was one of my favorites and it was fun to have a memory like that pop up 10 years or so later.Ubi Caritas still resides in my iPod. The other that I still listen to a lot is anything [by] Morten Lauridsen. We sang O Nata Lux and O Magnum Mysterium. Though I haven't been singing since college, the music experience I had in high school and college has stuck with me.

The orchestra recently had its own chance to create a great memory for its members. Last year, while traveling in New Orleans, the orchestras performed at a disadvantaged elementary school that offered no music instruction. While the ensembles were warned not to expect good audience behavior from the students due to their lack of exposure to live-music assemblies, the Wayzata students were profoundly affected when the New Orleans teachers came up to them after the 45-minute performance with tears in their eyes. "We've never seen the students so engaged!" they said. The elementary schoolkids themselves asked enthusiastically, "Can we try an instrument?" and, "When will you be back?". The realization that the New Orleans pupils were so touched by the music will surely be something that the orchestra members always keep with them.

If you like what you heard today from Wayzata High School musicians, both ensembles have concerts coming up in March at the high school. The choirs will perform on March 4 and the orchestras on March 18.

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