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Rich tones resonate at Baltimore Choral Festival

St. Matthews United Methodist Church, 3400 Norman Avenue, site of the Baltimore City Choral Festival
St. Matthews United Methodist Church, 3400 Norman Avenue, site of the Baltimore City Choral Festival
by V. M. Oliver-Lawson

..."Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us". These words from the Negro National Anthem, penned by James Weldon Johnson, came to fruition Friday, February 28, 2014 as four choirs demonstrated their vocal learnings.

The Balitmore City Choral Festival was held in the sanctuary of St. Matthews United Methodist Church, also known as the MD State Boychoir Facility, located at 3400 Norman Avenue in Baltimore.

Participants were greeted by four sectional risers and beautifully-stained glass windows, which allowed warm rays of sunshine to enter the church, a sharp contrast to the below freezing temperatures outside. As each group took turns organizing themselves on the risers, in preparation for what was to come, one could sense the level of committment each person had given to assure all went well.

This annual event, was held for adjudication purposes to qualify the participating choirs for the Maryland State Choral Festival, to be held in May at Morgan State University. The event, sanctioned by the Maryland Music Education Association, brought together the choirs from Monarch Academy, Booker T. Washington Middle School, Western High School and Baltimore City College High School.

Brian Schneckenburger, Curriculum Specialist for the Visual and Performing Arts of the Baltimore City School System, said this is a criterion-referenced assessment, much like the Maryland School Assessments that students will take in March. He also indicated that the genres would probably range from classical to gospel, in his words, "a little bit of everything".

The choirs were judged by a panel of three, who listened intently to each group, capturing the performances on a digital voice recorder. The panel of judges listened for vocal production/uniformity, dynamics, showmanship and stage presence. After recording the performances, each judge commented about the choir, in order to provide feedback.

Each group looked regally formal in their uniforms. There was evidence of comraderie and respect for the art as the choirmembers encouraged the other groups.

According to Schneckenburger, there are additional activities planned in the District Arts Festival. The schedule will continue with Band Assessments on March 21, Honor Chorus Concert on April 26, and the Baltimore Jazz Festival, to be announced. The celebration will culminate at the Baltimore Museum of Art with a reception.

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