"What a true honor it is" 

The Lincoln Town Car screeches to a halt in front of a startled group of New Yorkers. A flushed and tuxedoed man frantically rolls down the window, begging the assembled crowd, “Please, tell me! How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

From the throng, one mildly patronizing voice rises above the din. “Practice, my dear boy, practice...”

Yes, it’s a corny old joke that’s been told a blue million times. However, it’s also quite apropos. The glorious and almost obscenely historic venue located at the corner of 57th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan has played host to virtually every major classical music artist since opening to the public exactly 114 years ago this month.

Now, history can add The Savannah Arts Academy’s Choral Department to that esteemed list.

The group, under the award-winning direction of Mrs. Diane Stallings, have been invited to perform Faure’s Requiem in the hall on June 13 of this year. They’ll join other students from around the country in what will likely be a singular event in most of their lives.

However, for those friends, family and other hometown supporters who will be unable to attend the actual New York concert, the Choral Department is staging a special local performance of Requiem (and additional musical selections by Britten and Brahms) at 5 p.m. on April17 at our very own Carnegie Hall -– The Lucas Theatre.

This one-night-only show also features the Savannah Arts Academy orchestra under the direction of Mr. Matthew Busse.

It serves as more than just an opportunity to see this acclaimed group of young musicians in action. It functions as a fundraiser to help the aspiring vocalists defray the massive costs of such an undertaking (costs which are estimated at approximately $1,500 per student).

To say that everyone concerned is on pins and needles over this impending trip would be an understatement.

“I was so excited when I discovered at the beginning of the year that our choir was going to be able to perform in Carnegie Hall,” says senior vocal major (and Choir President) Brittiany Hodge.

“It has been almost surreal the past eight months as we have been preparing, and I think it will continue to be until I walk out on the stage. I’m not sure if any sound will come out of my mouth when I begin to sing that first note, because I will be so amazed that I am standing on the same stage that so many incredible musicians have been on.

“I think I can speak for everyone by saying what a true honor it is to be invited to perform in Carnegie Hall with musicians who are experienced and genuinely talented.”

It’s important to recognize that this concert performance will not occur within a vacuum. The entire journey will be educationally beneficial in a variety of ways.

Over the course of four days, the students will take in a phenomenal amount of what The Big Apple has to offer – and in the process gain unique insight into daily life in a major metropolitan city.

In fact, it’s quite a task to even tally a complete list of all the “quintessentially Gotham” activities the group will sample.

Highlights will include catching a staging of the smash Broadway musical Hairspray, and a performance by the world-famous Blue Man Group. They’ll also tour Lower Manhattan, Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building – as well as see the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, enjoy the cultural delights of Greenwich Village and Chinatown, and – on a more somber note – reflect on the world’s harsh realities during a visit to the Ground Zero site.

The late Isaac Stern (who famously led the charge to save the building from the wrecking ball in 1960, and was rewarded for those efforts when the main hall was officially renamed in his honor) is often quoted as saying that the renowned acoustic marvel of a venue is itself an instrument that “takes what you do and makes it larger than life.”

With a little help from the community, some of our best, brightest and most talented teenagers will soon be afforded a chance to learn firsthand just what the legendary violinist meant. w

This special benefit performance will take place at The Lucas Theatre on Sunday, April 17 at 5 pm. Advance tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens. They can be purchased at The Lucas Theatre box office, or by calling 525-5050. Any other donations are invited and checks should be made out to: Savannah Arts Academy Choral Department, 500 Washington Avenue, Savannah, GA 31405.


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Jim Reed

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