Starr’s Mill choral program selected for prestigious performances 

Wed, 09/02/2009 - 9:09am
By: The Citizen

Where can you find the unified voices of football players, musicians, soccer players, honors students, lacrosse players, writers, swimmers, artists, runners, cheerleaders, debaters and actors? In the Starr’s Mill High School Choral Program, of course. More than 150 Starr’s Mill High School students have chorus in common this year, setting the stage for an exciting choral calendar in 2009-10.

Of particular note, the choral program, directed by Dr. John Odom and assisted by Mrs. Christy Todd, has been hand-picked for two prestigious performances this year: one before a significant group, the Georgia Music Educators Association Conference in Savannah; and the other in a remarkable, national venue, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

The Starr’s Mill Men’s Chorus, known as Camerata, was chosen as one of only five high school choral programs in the state to perform at the annual meeting of GMEA, the state affiliate of the Music Educators National Conference that serves the needs of music educators at all levels. The 42-member chorus is already hard at work preparing a 25-minute program that will be featured on the Friday evening of the three-day conference, scheduled for Jan. 28-30, 2010.

“This is the second time in four years that a Starr’s Mill chorus has been chosen to perform at the GMEA state conference and the first for our Men’s Chorus,” Odom said. “These guys are preparing a wonderful program of men’s choral repertoire, ranging from opera choruses to the famous setting of the Ave Maria by Franz Biebl.”

  And to top it off, next spring, more than 70 members of the choral program will head to New York City by special invitation to serve as the chorus for the 11 a.m. Choral Eucharist service on Sunday, March 21, at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. St. John the Divine, begun more than 100 years ago, was conceived during the period of mass immigration of the late 1800s as a “house of prayer for all nations.” The cathedral was restored after a 2001 fire that destroyed its north transept and was only just rededicated on Nov. 30, 2008.

“I was truly amazed when we received the invitation from the Canon of Music at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York to perform in this amazing venue,” Odom said, “and not just to sing, but to be the service choir for a Sunday morning service. The choir will be performing mass settings of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Benedictus and Agnus Dei, as well as a Psalm setting, Offertory anthem and a Communion anthem.”

“One other element that is making this performance so special,” he continued, “is that local composer Michael Dorough and St. Louis poet Larry Brown have teamed together to write two choral pieces for the choir to premiere at the cathedral, both of which will be accompanied by the cathedral organist on one of the world’s most renowned instruments, The Great Organ, built in 1911 and containing 8,035 pipes.”

The Starr’s Mill Choral Department is no stranger to traveling performances. In April 2008, the chorus was invited to perform the Prelude to Evensong at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and in 2006, the Starr’s Mill mixed ensemble, Chanticleer, made the choral program’s first-ever appearance at the Georgia Music Educators Association’s Conference, where they premiered a new mass by world renown composer James Mulholland.

With the impending trips to Savannah and New York City this year, the Starr’s Mill Choral Boosters are already working hard to try and defray the cost of traveling to these significant performances. As such, the Boosters would welcome both individual and corporate sponsorships. If you would like to contribute or be a business or corporate sponsor, please contact Allison Balkovetz,, or Terri Hull,, co-presidents of the Booster Club. Contributions of any size will be welcomed and most appreciated.

The Starr’s Mill Choral Department is comprised of six performing ensembles, which include the vocal jazz choir, An Octave Above; a 10-member, self-directed a cappella men’s group, Men of the Mill; two women’s choirs, Bel Canto and Bella Voce; the aforementioned men’s chorus, Camerata; and the 66-voice mixed ensemble, Chanticleer.

The community is invited free of charge to attend SMHS choral performances throughout the year, including the group’s Fall Concert on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. and at its annual Candlelight Processional on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., both in Duke Auditorium on the school’s campus at 193 Panther Path in Fayetteville. In addition, members of the choral program are joining forces with the Starr’s Mill Drama Department on the school’s annual musical production – the award-winning Broadway musical Guys and Dolls – scheduled for Nov. 4, 5 and 7. For tickets to the musical, call 770.486.2710.

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