Apex Chorus Performance at the North Carolina Music Educators Conference
Apex High Chorus performed at the North Carolina Music Educators Association (NCMEA) conference on November 12. Annually, there is a four day conference for music educators across the state, where classes, seminars, and performances are held. Each year, a select few high school choruses get to perform in a concert at the event, and not only was the Apex Chorus selected, but they closed the concert, receiving an impressive two full standing ovations in the process.
The pressure was on as they performed for the five hundred music educators across the state, each one judging their every move. Apex High choral director Heather Copley explained, “It’s different at the conference. Here, you have moms that are just pinching cheeks and think that you’re adorable and perfect. At this conference, you have 450 to 500 of me, who criticize and notice every mistake. So, to have a fellow music educator come up to me after they performed–with tears in their eyes–and tell me how much they were moved by my chorus means the world.”
Rehearsals, which began the Saturday before school started, were the only time that the mixed group of men’s and women’s chorus could practice together. The music was taught in class separately, and the group had to come together after school to combine their voices. “It’s more pressure because you don’t know if it’s going to come together until they sing with each other,” commented Copley. Despite the challenge, the Apex High Chorus was up to the task.
Differing from Apex Choruses in the past, our current chorus is not made up of booming, powerful voices that wow the audience with their vocals. Instead, they are a deeply emotional group of talented singers that make the audience feel, exhibiting great vulnerability and maturity. Copley, who has been teaching at Apex High for twenty years, agrees that there is something deeply special about this year’s chorus that separates them from others and allows them to touch the audience so greatly. “There was a moment on stage Monday, where I stopped conducting…The song was about taking the hardships in your life and giving them to God. They were singing and feeling it, and I just did my hands up and gave it all away. It was incredible. It was the best they’d ever sung it,” remarked Copley. For a chorus to have such presence that an experienced director like Copley was overcome is no small feat.
Their success cannot solely be attributed to the rigor of their rehearsal process, however. Due to the emotional, collaborative nature of singing, the key to a moving performance is a close-knit group that can trust each other implicitly. While the technical requirements are crucial, the feelings that the singers portray and evoke in the audience are what makes or breaks a piece. For a chorus to do this, the group must be totally in synch with each other–both vocally and emotionally.
Normally, competitions start later in the year, and the crucial dynamic of the group forms then. This year, however, thanks to the conference, the bonding and sense of community developed much earlier. Junior, Jenna Davenport asserted the significance, saying, “I think that it’s really important to have that, like, bond and connection with everybody in the class when we’re trying to feel the emotion behind a piece. We had a really emotional piece, and to prepare we all shared something that we were going through in our lives. We sang the song right after that, and we were all crying, and just feeling it. If we weren’t as close as we were, we wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that. We were able to bring that in our music because we are so close.” After the NCMEA Conference, the general sentiment of among the Chorus is that they can accomplish anything this coming competition season.