The hill is alive

LEWISTOWN – On Tuesday afternoon, a group of students gathered in the choir room at Mifflin County High School to prepare for an event they described as “incredible” and “awesome.”

For the first time, Mifflin County High School is hosting the PMEA District IV Chorus Festival. Sherry Morgan, MCHS choir director, said the event will run from Feb. 6 to 9 at the school, and more than 187 student vocalists from Mifflin, Juniata, Huntingdon, Centre, Fulton, Clinton and Clearfield counties will participate.

Hosting the event was a huge undertaking for students and staff, from choosing a guest conductor to recruiting host families for visiting students.

“It’s a year-long endeavor,” Morgan said.

But students agreed that months of hard work are worth the experience.

“The whole attitude of the festival … everyone wants to be here,” said Mitch Matthews, MCHS student.

Blake Yoder, also a student at the school, said being a part of the chorus offers students the opportunity to perform with others who share the same passion for music.

To earn a chair in the choir, Mifflin County students said they participated in blind auditions with Morgan. Of those who auditioned, 22 local vocalists were chosen to perform in the festival.

The festival will begin Wednesday with auditions for the PMEA Region III Chorus Festival at Curwensville Area High School. Students said the top 10 vocalists each in soprano, tenor, alto and bass sections will move on to regionals.

The next two days will be spent in rehearsal with guest conductor Frank Bianchi from Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland. Students will practice 10 musical selections of varying language and origin, including their favorite spiritual pieces.

“They’re very expressive. They’re just the most fun in general,” Matthews said about spiritual selections.

A public choral performance will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, but Morgan said the public is also welcome to attend a performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Admission to the event is $5 for adults and $3 for students.

Some MCHS students will be participating in the festival for the first time this year, but choir veterans said they can attest to the quality of the district choral program.

“It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before,” said Kayla Buffington, MCHS student. “(The students’) hearts are really in it.”

Matthews said this will be his third district chorus experience, and he is anxious to see the size of the crowd the festival draws. He said past auditoriums have always been full, but the MCHS auditorium is the largest venue he has performed in.

“We are especially proud to be (hosting the festival) this year,” Morgan said. “We appreciate (the community’s) continued support of the arts.”