The room darkened and stage lights shined on the chorus students as they carefully moved into place and prepared to sing during last Friday’s Richmond Hill High School annual Holiday Concert.
Chorus Director Jamie Hillen welcomed guests and invited everyone to stand as the chorus opened with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” They sang 10 songs, including “Amid the Cold of Winter,” “Goin’ to Bethlehem,” “No Golden Carriage,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Silent Night.”
Norma Royals and Damarcus Patterson were the night’s piano accompanists.
Johnny Walker sat on the front row, camera in hand, watching his daughter, senior soprano Megan Walker, sing in one of her last high school performances.
“I’m very proud of her in general, no matter what it is,” he said. “I’ve heard they have one of the best choruses in the area.”
“It means a whole lot to have my parents here,” Megan Walker, 18, said.
She has sung in a school chorus group since fifth grade and plans to join the chorus in college. Her favorite song of the evening was “Carol of the Bells,” sung by the chorus’ girls and directed by student Christina Smith.
“Anyone who can get in chorus needs to be in,” Megan Walker said. “[Mr. Hillen] is an amazing teacher. He keeps it interesting.”
She said Hillen jokes a lot; he even had the students play kazoos at the concert, during the humorous musical satire “Good King Kong Looked Out.”
Soloists included Mindy Shadoan, Riley Reinhardt and Caroline Adamski, and a descant by Nate Furlong. Other students had speaking parts, which included narration and introduction of songs.
Donovan Nally, 17, a senior, narrated “A Hanukkah Remembrance.” His favorite song of the night was The Promise of Living.
“It’s my first time to sing tenor instead of bass, so it’s out of my comfort zone, but I can do it,” he said. “Mr. Hillen pushes the guys a lot. There are only six guys in the chorus this year. One year, I was the only guy. Mr. Hillen is always trying to get guys to join.”
Nally said he plans to join the chorus in college and may even major in music.
“I want to be a teacher, either chemistry or music. I’d be a singing chemist; I’d make it fun,” said Nally, who’s been singing since he was 2 years old, often in random family karaoke nights.
Nally’s mother, Belinda Montelbano, is the president of the Booster Club, which is raising money to send chorus students to New York City in April. Hillen was invited to bring the students to sing at Carnegie Hall.
“We will sing ‘Lux Aeterna.’ It’s a 27-minute song, 52 pages of music. The entire song is in Latin — every word,” Nally said. “There are five different movements, and the tone changes completely in each movement.”
With the help of the Booster Club, students are raising $2,000 each to go on the trip. Additionally, they want to purchase tux jackets for the boys.
“We have about $800 per student raised so far,” Montelbano said. “We’ve done a lot of bake sales in the past, which mainly brings in money from the parents. We are trying to get out in the community more.”
The club’s major fundraiser, Richmond Hill’s Got Talent, is in February. The event will include a talent competition for students and adults, as well as a silent auction and bake sale. The club is also asking businesses to sponsor students.