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Paynesville Press - November 27, 2002

PAHS choir sings in Carnegie Hall

By Jennifer E. Johnson

PAHS choir members sang their way through some of New York City's top landmarks on a recent five-day trip to New York City.

The opportunity to sing in world famous Carnegie Hall was one of many highlights for the students. With the choir's enthusiastic chaperones as their sole audience, the choir members gave an impromptu performance while touring Carnegie Hall.

PAHS choir sings in Carnegie Hall Choir director Cheryl Bungum and 25 chaperones travelled to New York with 55 PAHS students. The group left Paynesville on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and returned Sunday, Nov. 17. Covering over 2,800 miles, they spent two days travelling on chartered buses. A detour to Niagara Falls was the only sightseeing stop before arriving at their New Jersey hotel on Wednesday night.

Posing in the Carnegie Hall entryway fresh from their unofficial debut at the world famous music hall are 55 choir members both from the mixed choir and the treble choir.

The itinerary in New York City included a Broadway show, two scheduled concerts, visits to popular tourist stops, and tours of other arts-related venues. Each of their three days in the city were packed full of singing and sightseeing. For the choir's concerts, Bungum chose three songs, including On Broadway by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

On Thursday the group spent the morning at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. "The ferry was loaded with people, and we sang our way across the bay," said chaperone Barb Ingalsbe. In the afternoon, both choirs performed outdoors at South Seaport. "I enjoyed singing at South Seaport," said sophomore Amanda Kern. "I think it made a lot of people happy and that's good."

After the concert, they made their way through Manhattan, driving by Chinatown and the Brooklyn Bridge on the way to a United Nations tour. The day finished with dinner in Times Square and a theatre performance of Les Miserables.

On the ferry approaching the Statue of Liberty, Morgan Martinson, Laura Stoneburner, Susie Swyter, and Sara Ringstad (front) pose for a picture with the lady herself.

Friday morning began with an emotional stop at Trinity Church near Ground Zero. As they neared the surrounding fence, the impact of what they saw moved the choir to sing both The Prayer and Song for an Unsung Hero. "When we started singing there," said ninth grader Caitlin Lien, "I felt overwhelmed with emotions and memories of 9/11."

Many students marked that moment as the most important of the whole trip. "What sticks in my mind is seeing the big hole there," said Amber Schmitz. She stated that it was a powerful experience to see the fence around Ground Zero laden with memorials and also to see the number of people that stopped to listen on the street as they sang.

"Not necessarily the best, but the most powerful experience of the trip was singing at Ground Zero," agreed Bungum.

The group continued with stops at Carnegie Hall, the site of one of several spontaneous performances, to Lincoln Center, and then to St. John's Divine Cathedral, where the choir gave its second scheduled performance. With autumn still coloring the trees, they took a stroll through Central Park and enjoyed people-watching.

The group visited Grand Central Station before ending the evening 86 stories high atop the Empire State Building. Sophomore Stephanie Louis was enthralled with the vista, saying, "It was so cool to look down from the Empire State Building at night and see all the lights throughout the city, and the water was just illuminated by the lights."

Saturday morning started with visits to St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, and then Radio City Music Hall, for another tour. Their guide treated them to a brief look at the sold-out Rockettes' show from a special viewing area. Many students enjoyed the costume room and memorabilia throughout the building. One of the Rockettes also came out to talk about her job and pose for pictures.

Before embarking on the long journey home, they enjoyed a multi-sensory lunch at a Hard Rock Cafe.

Over 80 PAHS choir students and chaperones logged two travel days and covered over 2,800 miles in their round trip journey to New York City on two chartered buses.

Student's reactions to their time in New York ran the gamut from somber to starstruck. "Where the World Trade towers once sat is just a huge hole in the ground," said ninth grader Tanya Whitcomb. "I never thought a huge hole would be so emotional. There was so much stuff on the fence, it would take days to go along and look at and read everything."

Ninth grader Emily Mohr agreed, saying, "What I liked and will always remember is definitely when we sang at Ground Zero. That was a very emotional time for all of us."

On the lighter end, ninth grader Megan Reeck enjoyed the Radio City Music Hall. "The Rockettes are so awesome," Reeck enthused. "One of the best parts was the costume shop; there was a dress that was so intricately beaded. The part of the show we were able to see was definitely the most spectacular part. I loved how all their legs were in complete unison."

Ninth grader Emily Mehr was also interested in the celebrity side of the city. "I really enjoyed the Hard Rock Cafe," stated Mehr. "We were seated right across from Kurt Cobain's guitar, which was signed. I got to touch it, too. They had it mounted. I saw a lot of cool memorabilia."

The city itself was the favorite of some. For many the sheer scale and multicultural population was a sharp contrast to their daily lives in Paynesville. "I thought going through Chinatown was really different," noted ninth grader Amanda Skalicky, "because it was like seeing how a city might look in China."

The instantly recognizable New York accent and the nuances of life in a fast-paced city were also fascinating. "It was a new and fun experience to see all the different people and the way they acted and talked," said ninth grader Allyson Klenke. Even crossing the busy streets held shades of culture shock. "When the stop lights say WALK, it means RUN because the cars don't stop for you, they honk their horns at you," observed Lien.

Planning for the trip began last spring, with New York City chosen as the destination at the suggestion of their tour consultant. "He told me that New York was the spot for choir groups to visit," said Bungum. "I was hoping (the students) would get to experience many of the world-renowned places that New York has to offer." said Bungum, "Seeing the Statue of Liberty and places they might have only seen on TV was amazing."

Led by choir director Cheryl Bungum the choir members gave their first official New Your City performance outdoors at South Seaport.

Financing for the trip was done through several fund raisers hosted by choir members. Students exceeded their goals, raising enough money to cover the $400 per person expense, while chaperones paid their own way for the trip. Another bus was added to accommodate the overwhelming response from chaperones hoping to accompany the choir.

The choir will hold a concert at the high school on Monday, Dec. 16. A "stockholder's meeting" will be held prior to the concert at 6:30 p.m. to thank the people who supported the choir financially this year. Members of the choir will share pictures, videos, and talk about their experience in New York City. The concert will follow at 8 p.m.

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