MOSES LAKE — The chamber choir split into small groups, working on the music, trying to get the sound right.
The musical director of the Moses Lake High School choir, David Holloway, then took it over during group practice, the vocals a little off here and there.
Accuracy matters in the chorus. The competition season is approaching and will begin at the end of January. So the altos gathered in one rehearsal room, the sopranos in another, dissecting the sound and piecing it together.
The competition season begins with a solo and group competition in Wenatchee. The singers do not compete against each other, but against a standard.
Zachary Terrell said it was a good way to learn about music he might not learn in a choir, and Roeber said it was a good way to learn about music in general. . The judges review each singer’s performance.
“They (the judges) give you a little mini-course,” Roeber said. “I always got better afterwards.”
Another way to improve is cooperation, which is one of the lessons learned in the MLHS music program, on the way to chamber choir. Zoe Sterner was in a choir all through high school and learned that lesson through experience.
“I remember my freshman year, and I remember how mature the people in my choir were, which wasn’t very mature,” Sterner said. “We were fighting over solos, no one made friends easily. And then once you get to those backing vocals (audition required) you see someone gets a solo and instead of some people being grumpy someone else got it, congratulations.
“We all know we’ve worked our way here, so whoever gets a solo has earned it,” Esther Roeber said.
Any student can take the male and female choir classes, but anyone who wants to join the chamber choir must audition, Holloway said.
Kaylin Hampton remembered that audition.
“It was scary,” she said.
Not everyone gets in and the audition isn’t just about talent. Discipline and cooperation are crucial when it comes to mixing voices.
“That’s actually what the chamber is about – who has the most discipline, who can work best with Holloway. Because some people can have an amazing voice, and they still don’t make it,” Summer Bowen said. “It all depends on how well you can work with people. And also how much effort you put into it. It’s more a question of effort than talent.
“It’s not even always about who sounds better on auditions and callbacks too,” Jordan Nelson said. “Because I know for a fact that I bombed him. I spoke so badly.
But Holloway assigned Nelson to chamber choir even after the audition.
“Not based on that (the audition), but how he knew I could work with everyone,” Nelson said.
Aiden Dryer was in the male choir for three years and said he wasn’t really interested in the chamber choir.
“I didn’t really feel like it would be something I was into, but Holloway kept pestering me,” he said.
But with the senior year coming up, he decided to give it a try. And he noticed a difference.
“It feels like an extended family,” Sterner said.
“I love the community it creates,” said Emma Selmann.
“When you sing, you are very vulnerable. So when we’re all vulnerable together and learning music and taking lessons, but also having fun; it’s so easy to make really good friends and to be able to laugh. Because we all work hard and do our best in the choir,” Roeber said. “Most of the time.”
“I really love that we can be part of something bigger than ourselves,” Bowen said. “Because when we play, we’re all in this together. You can’t just think, ‘Oh, I’m going to outshine everyone.’ Because we are all trying to blend in and create something beautiful with all of us together.
“The choir doesn’t sound great unless you work together,” Daria Lawson said.
“Someone can be amazing on their own, but if they decide they don’t want to give that to the choir and try to work with us, that sounds really bad,” Taylor Mack said.
Producing the sound they’re looking for takes practice, and it’s hard enough in person. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down MLHS and forced students to take classes online. The choir continued to function despite everything.
“We did everything online,” Roeber said. “We had (online classes) every day, we had meetings, we had online recordings that we were doing.”
“It was awful,” Zachary Nelson said.
“It was awful,” Roeber said. “And the only reason it was worth it is that we’re back here now. It was really hard to get through that.
“Because we pushed him, and because when he told us (to sing), we did, instead of just bringing up our mics and not singing. I’m glad most of us did it, because at the end of the day, we’re better off for it,” Sterner said.
“We managed to come back. We got back to normal, sort of,” Roeber said.
All the practice has resulted in substantial improvement since those early days in non-auditioning choirs.
“It’s crazy to look back on my first solo and ensemble song, and I can see how different my voice is,” Sterner said. “I can sing lower and higher than before – it’s just crazy.”
Nelson said he sang bass in first grade, but his voice changed to the point that he’s a tenor. Roeber said singing is a form of exercise, and it’s like any other exercise – the muscles get stronger.
“It’s really like training,” Sterner said.
“Not only have we improved (in) our understanding of music, but my voice is so different. You have a similar sound, but the strength and range really grows with maturity,” Roeber said. “And Holloway is kind of there through it all, and seeing all of his students grow into more mature singers.”
Choir students said Holloway was important to their success.
“Holoway, he’s been very patient with us,” Roeber said.
“Everyone wants to be here,” Holloway said. “The children and myself, we can challenge each other.”
“Every time I come to the choir, I have a great time,” said Maddie O’Neil.
“And that’s the best part of my day, honestly,” Sterner said. “After the fifth period, I’m just – happy.”