Six Longfellow Students Selected for All-VA Chorus

For as long as choral director Kimberly Dawson is aware, there have not been more than two Longfellow students a year selected for the All-Virginia Middle School Honors Choir. So when six of her chorus students were chosen this year, Ms. Dawson was shocked and extremely proud.

8th graders Morgan H. and Anna S., as well as 7th graders Anna B., Mihika M., Chloe P., and Audrey W., were selected from Longfellow to participate in the 2022 All-VA Chorus; 7th graders Bella A. and Alexander O. were chosen as alternates. To achieve this honor, they worked hard and spent a lot of time preparing and practicing. On the online audition platform, Opus Events, the students recorded themselves singing the first verse of “America” and a scale. The key in which they sang depended on which voice part they were auditioning for. The highest was Soprano 1, followed by Soprano 2, Alto 1, and Alto 2.

The singers faced many challenges during the audition process. 

“The biggest challenge was that auditions were late this year, so students did not have a lot of time to prepare,” Ms. Dawson said. “My main role was ordering the music and then getting the recordings to them, and they mostly learned the music on their own.”

In addition, some of the students recorded their auditions several times, restarting if they made even the tiniest mistake. Audrey W., a 7th grader who made All-VA Chorus, spent half an hour on the audition for “America,” a 15-second song. She said the song itself wasn’t hard, but the fact she was competing for a rare opportunity made it more important to sing well.

Chloe P., another 7th grader who was selected, had some problems as well. “Mainly, the part was I had to get the starting note right for both the scale and the piece because if I got it wrong and sang it in the incorrect key, it wouldn’t count, and then I wouldn’t be able to have the chance to get in.”

After auditioning, the singers had to wait for a long period of time for the results to be released.

“It’s really nerve-wracking when you submit your audition because you don’t know if you’re going to be chosen or not, and [in] the period of time between when you submit it and when you get your results, [you’re always wondering if you got in],” Audrey said. 

Chloe mentioned that the results took forever to come out. But after more than a month of nervous and impatient waiting, she and the other students finally found out whether they had been chosen for All-VA Chorus or not.

Audrey was surprised when she received her results. “When I found out that I was selected, I was actually kind of shocked. When I auditioned, I wasn’t 100% sure I was getting in because it’s harder,” she remarked.

Both she and Chloe expressed their eagerness and anticipation about gathering in Richmond with other great singers from across Virginia.

“I knew it was going to be really tiring and stuff, but I was still excited to sing with the best singers in the state and work with really good people. So, I’m really happy about that,” Audrey said.

The singers rehearsed from 9 am to 6 pm on Thursday, April 21, and Friday, April 22, performing their songs the day after on Saturday, April 23, in Fairmount Christian Church. The sheet music was distributed to students about a month prior to the actual event so that they could have some time to practice beforehand.

Ms. Dawson emphasized the difficulty and diversity of this year’s songs. “They performed a variety of pieces from various genres: classical, African American spiritual, different languages, [and] different cultures,” she said.

The treble choir, consisting of 6th and 7th grade girls, sang “Domine Deus,” “Sing Out My Soul,” “Le Lion Amoureux,” “Topsy-Turvy World,” “Labour of Love,” and “It Takes a Village.” The mixed choir, with 8th grade girls and all of the boys, presented “Raise Your Voice in Song,” “I Will Tread Lightly,” “Sikirileke/Koloi,” “Sukkat Shelomekha,” “When I Hear Music,” “Achieved is the Glorious Work,” and “Lord, Give Me Just a Little More Time.”

According to the singers, one of the hardest pieces was “Le Lion Amoureux,” which was entirely in French. “That was really challenging, but the songs were so fun to sing, and when you put all the parts together, it sounds really good. I really enjoyed all the songs,” Audrey commented.

Although the students had to rehearse for many hours each day, they agreed that All-VA Chorus was an amazing experience.

“We sang for hours straight,” Chloe said. “Our conductor was really great, and he helped us work on all the songs and all the details, and it was a lot of fun.” In fact, both of the conductors—Derrick Fox and Christopher Fox—were nationally recognized, and they wrote some of the pieces that were performed.

Audrey also enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and sing with them. During the breaks, she chatted with the other singers to get to know them better. All-VA Chorus was not only a learning experience for students but also a time to have fun and make new friends.