WORTHINGTON — Nearly 400 sixth- through 12th-grade vocalists from Worthington Middle School and Worthington High School will sing from their hearts at ISD 518’s annual fall choral concert at 7 p.m. Monday.
Set in the WHS gymnasium, the concert features the three WMS grade-level choirs under the direction of Cindy Anderson and the two WHS groups (the 69-voice Concert Choir and 42-member Varsity Choir) led by Kerry Johnson.
All of the choristers will unite for a concert finale performance of Minnesota composer Abbie Betinis’s “Love is Love is Love is Love,” which premiered in 2017 to wide acclaim.
“That will conclude the concert, with all five groups involved—and hopefully we’ll be able to add the audience in as well,” hinted Anderson.
Earlier, Anderson will debut her sixth-grade choir. They are singing “Et in Terra Pax” (Latin, meaning “peace on earth”) and “I am Anne” from the 2018 musical “We Stand on the Shoulders of Giants” by John Jacobson and Mac Huff.
“We’re trying go for a concert theme about looking for the good in this world, and about sharing mercy, peace and kindness,” said Anderson.
“The ‘I am Anne’ song highlights three kids whose efforts changed the world — Anne Frank, Ryan White and Malala — and my students really respond well to it,” she continued.
“It includes three students reading quotes from each of those young people, and I think it’s important for our kids to know that even though they’re young, they still have a voice.”
Anderson’s seventh-graders are also singing one selection in Latin — “Kyrie” meaning mercy—and the contemporary “Youth,” a 2018 hit by the 21-year-old singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes.
“His lyrics say, ‘You can’t take my youth away; this soul of mine will never break, as long as I wake up today, you can’t take my youth away,’” recited Anderson.
Capping off the WMS choir’s concert portion, the eighth graders will present “So Take This Song of Joy” by Greg Gilpin and “We Won’t Stop Dreaming” from Pinkzebra.
“I’m not sure everyone realizes that the music performance groups at WMS — choir, band and orchestra — are on a three-day rotation, so I only have my full choirs once every three days,” explained Anderson.
“That means these concerts always come up so quickly in the school year, but I’m very fortunate to have supportive colleagues here who cooperate and coordinate to maximize our rehearsal time so we can do the best for our students.”
Johnson has already taken a portion of her teen singers on the road; the WHS Concert Choir performed on Oct. 15 at the Bridges Music Festival at the University of Minnesota Morris. On Nov. 4, they will play host to the Big South Choral Festival.
“The Concert Choir will sing four songs because two of the pieces — which are both a cappella — are African folk songs chosen by directors of the other events we’re involved with this fall,” said Johnson.
“I was looking for ways to pull those together with additional numbers and saw the possibility of using a theme expressing the value of individuals, celebrating life and the value each person’s unique traits bring to the world and our program.”
Hence, Johnson’s Concert Choir will share not only “Stand by Me” (featuring junior alto Ericka Lo) and Jake Runestad’s “Please Stay” (with senior soprano soloist Sarah DeSmith) but also “Nda Wana” and “Ukuthula.”
“’Nda Wana’ has a simple text that translates to, ‘I saw the children down by the river, laughing and playing, resisting sleep,’ and they learned it at the Morris festival,” said Johnson.
“’Ukuthula’ is an African prayer for peace, and Kalea Appel sings the solo in that.”
Johnson mentioned her students have been “very enthusiastic” about these fall selections.
Meanwhile, the WHS Varsity Choir, which is comprised largely of freshmen and sophomores, will sing “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent,” “I Choose Love” and “Why We Sing.”
“The first song talks about celebrating the small things in life, while ‘I Choose Love’ is about getting up again when you’ve been knocked down,” said Johnson.
“And we end with ‘Why We Sing’ because that emphasizes how the power of music can tie us all together despite our individual differences.”
Although it’s only their first public performance of the year, Johnson is particularly pleased with the effort her Varsity Choir students are putting forth.
“I’m really excited about the progress they’re making,” she said. “There are some fine voices in that ensemble, and I am eager to see what they’ll do in the coming years.”
The fall choral concert of the Worthington Middle and High Schools takes place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Worthington High School gymnasium, 1211 Clary St., Worthington. The public is welcome to attend; there is an admission fee, and ISD 518 activity passes will be honored. Students should report at 6 p.m. to the gymnasium for a rehearsal of the concert finale’s mass piece, and WMS students should dress in black, white, gray or a combination of those colors with attire keeping to the school dress code.