The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Getting to Carnegie Hall

Doreen Irwin’s choir students Lael Whetstone, Marcia Samlley, Craig SMalley, Dorothy Fong, and Terry Farmer. Photo courtesy of Doreen Irwin.

Most choir students have heard the same legendary story, and City College choir singer Stephanie Blackwell isn’t any different.

The saying goes that one day, after a rehearsal, violinist Mischa Elman  and his wife were leaving Carnegie Hall by the backstage entrance when two tourists looking for the hall’s entrance approached them.

“‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall?’” they asked Elman, says Blackwell. “Without looking up and continuing on his way, Elman simply replied, ‘Practice, practice, practice.’”

And that’s exactly what the City College chorale did to prepare for the concert it performed May 27 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

City College music professor and chorale director Doreen Irwin says that she auditioned the choir by sending Carnegie Hall a CD with 12 different styles of songs performed by the singers.

Irwin says she kept this a secret from the choir because she didn’t want them to be disappointed if they were rejected. Instead, she was thrilled when they got accepted.

Blackwell, who is a soloist on the choir, says that she had always dreamt of playing Carnegie Hall.

“I secretly wished [Irwin] would one day try and take us to Carnegie Hall,” says Blackwell, who’s been in the choir since 1994.

Blackwell says that it was a dream come true performing at the famous venue and that it will be something she cherishes forever.

It was especially meaningful, she says, because it seemed to bring her closer to her late mother.

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On an artistic note, she adds, the overall performance felt good.

“The choir and Dan Poole, our accompanist, were flawless through the entire program, and Professor Irwin was dynamic, energetic and in full control,” she says. “We received a standing ovation at the end; [it was] a wonderful way to top off an enchanting experience.”

The standing ovation surprised Irwin. “When I walked out I went, ‘Oh my gosh look at all the people’ and then when we were finished singing I said, ‘Oh my gosh look, they’re standing up and clapping like hands in way up in the air,’” says Irwin.

Soloist Larry Petite, who has been in the choir for 14 years, says that the standing ovation from a full house brought joy and satisfaction to the entire choir.

“When singing with the choir, the energy and spirit of our songs seemed to be amplified with the audience visibly moved and inspired,” says Petite. “When listening to the other soloists, the sound seemed to carry farther and farther and then wrap back around us. When I was

singing my solo, Carnegie Hall echoed back with rich and deep tones, warm and friendly.” The choir performed a total of six songs beginning with “If Music Be The Food of Love” and ending with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to celebrate Memorial Day.

After practicing to get there, Petite says that Carnegie Hall might be the highlight of his career.

“It is always amazing to be able to sing where so many, many great musicians have performed,” says Petite. “It is a right of passage for a professional musician to perform in Carnegie Hall. The invitation to sing at Carnegie Hall is an indisputable acknowledgement to the professionalism and expertise of our amazing director, Doreen Irwin.”

Irwin has been the chorale director at City College since 1975 and will be retiring in the spring, but she says that throughout all these years, the concert at Carnegie Hall was very different from the rest.

“That was the best we’ve ever sung, in the best venue we’ve ever sung in, and most choirs will say they’ve never been there,” says Irwin. “It’s just amazing that we did it—and not only did we do it, but we did it and it was fantastic. It was a real special performance.”

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