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The students in Warhill High School’s honors choir will have a unique opportunity to join their voices to those of an older, more experienced choir this weekend.
The group, led by new teacher and director Brooke Niblett, will perform its first concert in partnership with the Virginia Choral Society, one of the oldest continuously performing choral organization in Virginia.
VCS, which is based in Newport News, was founded in 1931 and performs throughout the Hampton Roads area, and Saturday’s show will take place at First United Church of Christ in Hampton.
Warhill’s honors choir is a prestigious class for which students at the school must audition in order to receive a spot. Fewer than 20 students, most of whom are juniors and seniors, make up the class, which meets for 90 minutes each day.
When Niblett began teaching at Warhill in September, she knew she wanted to focus on giving her students new and varied singing experiences. With the honors choir in particular, finding new performance outlets was paramount to the growth and success of these talented students as performers.
When VCS, of which Niblett is a member, proposed a collaboration between the two groups, she was on board immediately. Her experience as a new teacher at Warhill seemed to mirror the experience of VCS, which finds itself under new leadership this year with the hiring of Sarah Frook as the new artisitic director of the group.
Frook approached Niblett early in the school year about the possibility of partnering with the Warhill honors choir as part of her own initiative to perform with different area high school choirs for the group’s winter concert series. The other two schools selected for participation are based in Newport News and Hampton Roads, so Warhill’s inclusion felt like a particular honor to Niblett.
One of the appeals of partnering high school choirs with an established older group of singers is to give each group exposure to and appreciation of different types of voices, allowing them the opportunity to explore new sound combinations and harmonies.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the older crowd to hear the younger crowd, and vice versa,” Niblett said.
Niblett’s students have been practicing the selections for the concert since the beginning of the school year, occasionally putting in after-school rehearsals in addition to their daily class meetings. They will have one rehearsal with VCS before the big show.
The choir has prepared two selections to perform solo – Jeff Funk’s arrangement of “Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Salmo 150” by Ernani Aguiar – and two selections to perform with VCS, giving them an opportunity to both shine on their own and work as part of a larger ensemble.
Niblett believes the combination of playful and more serious compositions will show off the full range of the choir’s abilities, as well as fit in with the mood of the season.
So far this year the Warhill choral department has already had the opportunity to perform with the Williamsburg Choral Guild in its production of Mendelssohn’s Elijah last month, but the upcoming performance represents a stretch for the group in both a geographic and metaphorical sense.
“They’re so excited for the opportunity to perform outside of the community,” Niblett said. “This is a brand new experience, and it’s exciting for them to get to travel to perform with a rather selective ensemble.”
Niblett expects the experience will also challenge her students to improve as performers by giving them the chance to sing alongside older voices and work with an unfamiliar conductor.
“[The show] is going to show off a different side of them,” Niblett said.
Moving forward, Niblett hopes to continue to seek out opportunities for her students to perform outside of a traditional school setting. Though performing with VCS represents a rare chance to perform in an entirely new area, the group also continues to value opportunities that arise to perform at places within the Williamsburg community, such as local retirement homes and hospitals.
“I am excited and thankful for the opportunity to showcase the hardworking efforts of these students to members of not only the Williamsburg community, but across the entire Peninsula,” Niblett said.
The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at First Christ United Church in Hampton. Tickets are $15 for general admission in advance and $18 for general admission at the door. Senior, military and student discounts are available. Tickets can be purchased here.