Choir Soaks In Culture in NYC During Spring Break

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  • 100 SCHS choir members performed in NYC during spring break.

    Provided by Heather Dant

  • Experiencing a musical on Broadway was an experience Mr. Merritt was happy to give his students.

    Heather Dant

  • After performing, the group spent time exploring well-known landmarks and museums in NYC.

    Heather Dant

  • The lights of Times Square were a hit with students.

    Heather Dant

  • Students had time for shopping and exploring while in NYC during spring break.

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When people think of spring break, they imagine going to the beach with family for a week or staying home and hanging out with friends.  This April, spring break 100 SCHS choir students and 50 chaperones from Scott County High School’s choir went to New York City. Every other year, the choir takes a trip to New York for spring break in order to give students the chance to perform in one of the largest cities in the US and to experience its culture as well.  

Brent Merritt, choral teacher at SCHS, has organized these trips for many years.  He said, “I feel that the trip to NYC is an excellent opportunity for our students to experience the cultural vibrancy of our nation’s largest city.  The music, theater, dance and art scene found in NYC is phenomenal. I love that my students have the opportunity to experience Broadway Shows, tour the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and discover so many iconic cultural landmarks found within the city.”  

The group traveled by bus overnight in order to maximize their time sightseeing.  After a long night of travel, the first stop in New York was Ellen’s Stardust Diner.  The diner is well-known for the performances from the waitstaff. They go around singing, often dancing on tables, while serving customers. Tarin Bowen, junior, said, “The workers were very talented and made my breakfast entertaining!  It was a memorable way to start the trip.” The majority of the workers all shared the same hope that they will one day soon make it on Broadway.

After breakfast, the SCHS students and chaperones began touring well known NYC attractions.  Some groups elected to tour Radio City Music Hall, while others toured Top of the Rock.  

To end the first full day in NYC, the entire group went on a dinner cruise in the harbor.  After everyone finished their meal, the DJ started the music. Everyone was up dancing and singing along.  “Dancing with the friends I made through choir on this cruise will be a memory that I will cherish forever,” said Staisha Poyntz, senior.  

Senior Kaytlyn Gray’s has a memory of Mr. Merritt that will last with her for years.  Merritt was inspired by the music and began dancing. Gray commented, “It was so weird to see him relax and let loose outside of the classroom.”

The second day was quite eventful and included the choir’s performance at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  The had rehearsed in class for months and presented eight selections for the audience, including “Kyrie,” “He, Watching Over Isreal,” and “Unclouded Day.”  The acoustics in the cathedral were absolutely beautiful and Mr. Merritt and his fellow director Jamie Wright were proud of the group’s performance. 

Merritt explained that since the performance in the cathedral was during the Lenten season, the musical selections needed to be appropriate.  He explained a few of the choices.  “Our program started out with two a cappella selections.  A setting of the Kyrie, (in Latin/Greek) by Gregory D. Wilbur, which translates to “Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy”.  We started with that because a traditional Mass begins with that “ordinary”.  We followed that hauntingly beautiful selection with a processional, making our way slowly to the front altar steps, on a song called Indodana, arranged by Michael Barrett and Ralf Schmitt, which is a selection in the isiXhosa language, one of the official languages of South Africa.  The text translates as follows:  The Lord has taken his son who lived amongst us.  The son of the Lord God was crucified.  Father Jehovah, we are weeping.  They did a lovely job with this selection as it slowly crescendos to a powerful fortissimo section once everyone was on the steps.  It was quite moving.”

The trip is a ton of work, but I believe it is important that our students have the opportunity to experience, at least in some small part, one of the world’s most important cities, and the beauty, creativity, innovative ideas and grit that it has inspired, and continues to inspire in so many. ”

— Brent Merritt

Following the performance, the whole group toured the cathedral.  Students were impressed by the cathedral’s architecture and its intricacies.  

It wouldn’t be a complete trip to NYC without experiencing a show on Broadway, and students had the opportunity to choose from seeing Dear Evan Hansen, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked or Aladdin.  Chaperone Jamie Mendoza was very excited to finally be able to see Phantom of the Opera, one of the longest running musicals on Broadway, with her daughter Izzy Lambros, sophomore. “For me, it was a dream come true. I had waited 24 years to see more than just the opening scene.  It was all I had hoped it would be,” Mendoza explained.

The final day in New York was more somber for students as they visited the 9/11 Memorial and the museum. The museum featured pictures of everyone who died due to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.  Senior Will Sutherland said, “It was truly breathtaking…it almost didn’t feel real being there.”

To conclude the trip, the group gathered in Times Square to take a group photo that has become tradition for the SCHS choir trips, saw one final show on Broadway, and then it was time to reload the busses and return home to Georgetown.  

Merritt acknowledged that organizing and running the trip was not easy, but he understood the impact that it had on his students and fellow chaperones.  “The trip is a ton of work, but I believe it is important that our students have the opportunity to experience, at least in some small part, one of the world’s most important cities, and the beauty, creativity, innovative ideas and grit that it has inspired, and continues to inspire in so many,” he said.