Sunday, April 6, 2008

No. 3 in Series: Young Women at HFM Church Who Make Me Proud!

Last night, three of us went to the Holy Family Catholic Church in North Baltimore to see a performance of Franz Schubert's Mass in G, performed by the Elmwood High School Choir, directed by Christine Rohrs. It was spectacular. We've watched this public school choir develop over the last 6 years under Ms. Rohrs' direction, with the excellent accompaniment and administrative support of Mr. Dean Bell, ass't. principal who was the choir director there for many years, 6 years before Ms. Rohrs came. When he went into administration, they changed directors every year until she arrived. The high school has 400 students, but she teaches grades 5-12.

The choir is 64 voices, but there was only room for the 40 or so who could make this Saturday performance. The work is all in Latin, of course, and the students mastered it beautifully with a lovely blend and balance of voices. The acoustics of the church were excellent, enrichening the sound. Each section achieved a beautiful unison blend, most evident on the fugue. The dynamic contrasts were exquisite, and the students and director were much commended afterward by the hostess of the artist series, for which they performed.

The first performance of this piece featured soloists from BGSU on the previous Thursday where they performed at the school for a standing-room-only crowd. The 2nd performance was at the church, with a smaller, yet appreciative audience. This time, 3 students from the high school performed the solos, with the exception of the soprano solos which were performed again by the BGSU student (as Elmwood's soprano was stricken with laryngitis.)

They learned this work in lieu of competing at the OMEA choir competition, since their musical, Suessical, had to be scheduled on the contest day.

Raising student awareness of the plight of the homeless, these two concerts were performed as fund-raisers for the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, because the students had visited the mission on their recent trip. The mission allowed them to see the taping of an old-fashioned-style radio show, Unshackled, and also fed them a meal. They also heard a sermon in black Gospel style of preaching from one of the resident chaplains there.

Ms. Rohrs and the band director had just returned with 60 plus students and 18 chaperones from this Chicago trip, which also included band and choir seminars at Vander Cook College of Music, trips to the art museum, the museum of science and industry, the aquarium and the Navy Pier. They also attended a sports comedy club which featured Elmwood photos and info the club aquired from the school's website. The students also enjoyed Ed DeBevicks' Restaurant, a famous 50's style diner, and a highlight was certainly the Broadway show, Wicked, a take on the two sister witches in The Wizard of Oz. The choir had performed music from this musical in their concerts the previous year.

All of this followed a year that included a fall concert, a madrigal dinner, the Broadway show,Suessical, honor choir participation by select students, OMEA solo-ensemble competition with all ensembles and most soloists receiving superior ratings. STill to come is the Jr. High Musical, Annie, in May, and a spring concert on April 24, and also the Spring Arts Fest --Memorial Day and Graduation performances. Junior High also goes to Solo-ensemble competition.

The Royal Troubadours, the show choir, performed popular, Broadway, and classical love songs, throughout the dinner, plus a floor show culminating with the choreographed, ever-popular In the Mood for a Valentine fund-raiser at our church. Their final number on that occasion tied in with a Biblical love theme about love as the greatest gift. The Show choir performs elsewhere through the year.

Needless to say, Ms. Rohrs is totally dedicated to her work. She is another of the dedicated choir directors/choreographers of our church music productions and a member of the worship team, leading with voices on Sundays.

She, too, is a graduate of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music where she was an honor choral director of the chapel choir.

A fond early memory is of Christine marching her friends around her house pretending to be "Marching Generals" (the school band) in the 3rd grade or so. She and Stephanie ___, each directed a youth choir musical when they were 16, doing all the direction themselves without adult assistance, traveling around the tri-state area to perform. One was Friends Forever by MW Smith and the other People Need the Lord. Christine continued to develop youth choir at our church. They are still presenting the same message in their church music, and when they teach in public schools, setting a good example with good character and helping students learn and appreciate all kinds of music.

Together, they present an annual Christmas musical for the church, with Stephanie leading there while Christine leads at her school.

She's just one more of the younger generation who is taking the church forward in ways that exceed the energies and skills of their parents.

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible

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