August 9, 2023

A Decade of Work and Waiting — MasterSinger recaps England residency trip

Staff member, Hunter Rigsby
I knew that the end goal was going to England.

I have, quite literally, been looking forward to the England trip for a decade. From the very start of the Choir School program, I knew that the end goal was going to England. Every time we needed motivation or discipline in the Tour Choir, or when someone asked why we needed to sing for all these Evensongs anyway, and why we had to put on all these weird clothes, the answer was always, “This is how they do it in England.” And, on a more recent note, in the MasterSingers we’ve spent the past two years perfecting our sacred repertoire, and doing harder and harder music to work up to this trip. So, needless to say, being in residence at Wells Cathedral was a highly anticipated thing for me.

The pure weight of waiting for something for the majority of your life, and then having it finally happen, was a feeling that I almost didn’t know what to do with. When we arrived in Wells, I would like to say I remember exactly what happened, or exactly how I felt when I first walked into the Cathedral but I definitely don’t. The first couple of days were a bit of a blur, but the desperate desire to get the most possible out of the trip was ever-present in my mind. When we started rehearsal for that evening’s Evensong every afternoon, I (along with everyone else) was usually tired from our day of excursions, not to mention the exhaustion from lingering jet lag. Some days I just wanted it to be over with, so that I could go have dinner and get in bed. However, when I started to feel this way, I would look around at the Cathedral surrounding me, up at the ceiling far, far over my head, over at my friends around me, but most importantly listen to the sound of the music in this incredible space. I would remind myself that this was really, truly, a once in a lifetime experience. And that was enough.

Day trip to visit Westminster Abbey

There is something magical about singing in a choir that is really good and that is full of young voices. Teenagers have so much potential as musicians, but it’s rare that there’s a group that can sing difficult enough music at a young age so as to realize that potential, and I believe that this group of MasterSingers has reached it. For me personally, we felt a bit unstoppable this year. I would look at our music and think to myself, no way we can do this well. And then, we did. It was an exhilarating feeling, and I think we all realized how much of a privilege it was to sing in this group when we were in England.

As I mentioned before, we in the Choir School spend a lot of our time preparing for this residency, but this begs the question, why do we go to England?  Well for one, a lot of the music we sing is written for English Cathedrals. In fact, one of the pieces we sang was written for Wells Cathedral itself! When we sang the Dove Missa Brevis on Sunday morning, it was clear what vision the composer had for how it would sound when it was performed in Wells. For another thing, we grow tremendously as a group. After singing with a set group of people for a week, I could feel the difference in our last Evensong. It felt like we made a more beautiful sound because of the time we’d spent singing as one. Also, it was awesome to get to know everyone better, because of course I saw them every Thursday for rehearsal, but this trip gave us a chance to actually bond as a group and really become closer friends.

If you went around and asked all the MasterSingers what their favorite part of the trip was, you’d get a variety of answers, but one would be the most popular (and I know because we all shared!), and that would be singing in the Chapter House. On our second day in Wells, we got a tour of the Cathedral, and this tour brought us up to a room called the Chapter House. It’s a big octagonal room off to the side from the main part of the Cathedral with a big pillar in the center of the room and a tall fan-vaulted ceiling.

MasterSingers singing in The Chapter House for the first time

I can’t even begin to describe how it sounded, or how it felt to know that you were the ones making that sound.

Pretty much the moment we stepped in there, Ms. Lenti was dead set on getting us to sing something while we were there. So, we decided to sing a couple of our prettier a cappella pieces, Sicut Cervus by Palestrina and Bring Us, O Lord God by William Harris. I can’t even begin to describe how it sounded, or how it felt to know that you were the ones making that sound. During the first piece, I was just in shocked awe. Then while we were starting the Harris, another tour group happened to be walking by and stopped to listen, and soon we had a relatively substantial audience, and then I stopped thinking about how good we sounded, and started worrying about keeping the tempo up, making sure every pitch was exactly in tune, and worrying that we didn’t sound good enough. But then we finished. And they cheered. And I thought, well, maybe we are a bit good after all!

After a moment, I looked around, and finding one of my friends, walked over to her. However, she was engaged in conversation with one of the people who had been watching, and he was speaking what sounded like rapid fire Italian to her. After a moment, he stopped, gathered himself, and said “I’m sorry- I’m Italian, you did very, very well on your… mission!!” We were both over the moon, and thanked him lots. It was incredible to think that we had reached someone from a different continent, who spoke an entirely different language, and had a very different culture, and yet there we were.

So all in all, our experience in the Chapter House was a spectacular summary of the residency as a whole. It brought together all the feelings of being in a different environment, a beautiful space, and reaching people I never otherwise would have dreamed to be able to, concentrated into one beautiful moment.

From my realization on the way to the airport that this was actually happening, to the emotional scene after our last Evensong, our residency in England meant more to me than I can say with words. It is really important for young artists, and young people in general to have a good, supportive community that helps them grow as artists, and the Choir School goes above and beyond. However, the people I was able to get closer to on the trip really made it a million times better, and I will remember the trip and the people I was able to go on it with forever. Thank you doesn’t cover how incredibly lucky I felt to be there, at that moment, but thank you to everyone who made the MasterSingers’ Residency at Wells Cathedral as surreal as it was.

Day trip to Bristol visiting the SS Great Britain

This blog was written by Charlotte Choir School MasterSinger, Rosie C.

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Attending a Concert

Whether you’ve been attending Charlotte Choir School concerts for years, or this will be your first time, we want you to enjoy yourself and support our singers as a comfortable member of our audience. Here are some frequently asked questions about the concert-going experience that may help.

When do I applaud?

Our choirs love an enthusiastic and appreciative audience, so we encourage your applause. Please hold any applause during short pauses between movements or sections of longer pieces. Once a complete piece has ended, your applause is greatly appreciative. A standing ovation for our final curtain call is always appreciated, too!

May I bring food and beverages?

Food or beverage is not permitted in our main stage venue, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Please respect the sanctity of our founding partner’s worship space.

What if I arrive late?

Concerts begin promptly at the announced starting time. Latecomers and those who leave the venue before or during a work will be seated at the first appropriate break in the program.

When should I arrive?

Please consider how long it will take you to park, walk to our venue, check in, and have a moment before the show to familiarize yourself with the program and relax. We suggest you arrive at the venue at least 20 minutes before showtime.

Can I bring my cell phone or camera?

Yes, cell phones and cameras are allowed. However, we require that you turn off all cell phones, cameras, pagers, beeping watches, and other electronic devices before the performance begins — and that you check to see that they are again turned off after any intermission.Audience members may take photographs before and after the concert. Please note, however, that no photography or recording of any kind is permitted during the performance. Anyone seen using a camera, smart phone, or other device for these activities will be asked to leave.

How long are your concerts?

Our main stage concerts are about 90 minutes and are generally presented without an intermission.

Where do I get my tickets?

Tickets are sold on our website and all tickets are delivered by email to the purchaser. We do not have a will call, and your ticket (printed or on device) must be presented for proof at the venue.

Where do I park?

For main stage concerts at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church or First United Methodist Church, free parking is provided in the TransAmerica Square parking garage on Seventh Street. Enter on Seventh just west of Tryon and bring your ticket with you to the show for validation.

What should I wear?

You’re Uptown for a concert in Charlotte — have fun! But there’s no need to stress. Business or business casual works for all main stage concerts. Most importantly, we want you to be comfortable.

What if I know nothing about choral music and your repertoire?

That’s okay! We perform sacred and secular choral music with a repertoire that features a mix of accessible, familiar choral works, and some pieces you may not expect. You don’t need to know anything about our repertoire to enjoy our concerts. We will publish the concert program in advance, with information about the composers featured and pieces to be performed. We’ll also include links to Spotify and Apple Music where you can hear some pieces in commercial recordings. Elizabeth Lenti, our Artistic Director, also offers program notes from the stage with information on what to listen for in a piece.