Members of the top choirs at Denton’s three comprehensive high schools will join forces for a combined performance at 7 tonight at Texas Woman’s University’s Margo Jones Performance Hall.
Approximately 200 students from the choirs will perform British composer John Rutter’s Requiem, a Mass for the dead that first debuted in Dallas at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in 1985. The estimated 45-minute, seven-movement piece will feature a chamber ensemble made up of TWU students, faculty and guests, Guyer High School graduate Rebecca Hansen as soprano soloist and Joni Jensen, TWU coordinator of choral activities, as conductor.
The performance will be dedicated to the victims of school violence, said David Rives, choir director at Ryan High School.
He said a concert combining three choirs from the district’s three high schools has never been done, and he’s hopeful this is the first of many times the schools will come together to perform “amazing music.”
“We think it’s a unique event, in that, very often our three schools are competing against each other, whether it’s ... academics, athletics or even fine arts,” he said. “In this case, we’re working together. It’s a special event, it’s unique and historic.
“I think it’s refreshing that we’re coming together, singing together ... as a Denton Independent School District chorus.”
The combined choir met Monday for a two-hour dress rehearsal. Individually, the choirs have prepared for tonight’s performance over several months, Rives said.
Pamela Youngblood, chairwoman of the department of music and drama at TWU, said Requiem is a beautiful work, and that she’s pleased to share the stage with the high school groups to perform the piece.
The idea of combining the three high schools’ top choirs emerged last fall during a professional staff development session in which a facilitator asked choir directors what their “pie in the sky” aspirations were for the choral department, Rives said.
An idea was presented to combine the three choirs to “perform a masterwork, a choral composition recognized for its importance and beauty,” he said.
He said his students at Ryan High began preparing for tonight’s performance in December, around the time of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 26 schoolchildren and six adults.
It was difficult to talk about the “ugliness” associated with the act, Rives said. He said the group is using Requiem as inspiration to rise above the school violence and add some beauty to the world.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s School Associated Violent Death Study, between 1 percent and 2 percent of all slayings among school-age youths occur on school property, during a school-sponsored event or going to and from school.
“Our reply to the violence is we’re going to perform our music more passionately and with greater devotion,” Rives said.
Admission for tonight’s performance is $5.
Proceeds from the concert will benefit TWU music scholarships, Youngblood said.
For more information, contact the district fine arts department at 940-369-0075.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.