• October 20, 2019

PHS men’s choir heading to prestigious conference - Odessa American: ECISD

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PHS men’s choir heading to prestigious conference

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Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019 5:07 pm

The conference is in March in Little Rock, Ark., Head Choir Director Ken Sieloff said. They submitted an application and recordings of themselves last year to be judged by a panel of judges in a blind audition.

“We sent recordings from the last school year, the school year before that, and the school year before that,” Sieloff said.

The recordings were sent without any identifying features so they didn’t know who the choir was, they didn’t know where the Cantus were from and they didn’t know who the director was, he said.

Out of 100 entries, the choirs that will sing at the conference were selected. The 60-member Cantus ended up being one of three men’s choirs invited and one of seven high schools invited out of the total of 25 choirs singing at the conference, Sieloff said.

The Southwestern Division of ACDA is composed of the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

“It’s a rare thing to be invited. The last time that we were invited to an ACDA conference was 1985,” Sieloff said, and the first time ever for the varsity men to be invited.

Sieloff found out Cantus was selected when he was vacuuming out his car in his driveway. He thought it was a long shot because you never expect to be invited to these types of events.

“It’s so selective and it’s such a high level of competition that you just throw your hat in the ring and hope and pray to be chosen, so when I got the phone call it was a phone call from Missouri, so I ignored it. I immediately got an email with the title of the email being ‘swacd phone call please return.’ And when you get a phone call, that usually means it’s something good. When you get a letter in the mail, that usually means you’re denied,” Sieloff said.

“I hadn’t received anything yet, so obviously I threw down the vacuum, got right on the phone where I was standing and called right back,” he said.

While he was on the phone, Sieloff said he wanted into his house so his wife could tell by the expression on his face what was happening.

“I hung up the phone and we started jumping up and down. My dog went crazy. It was a really exciting moment. My mind was immediately flooded with all these thoughts. What are we going to sing? Where are we going to go? What are we going to wear? How are we going to get there? What are we going to do?”

The first call Sieloff made was to Executive Fine Arts Director and former head choir director Aaron Hawley. Sieloff said that was the most excited he and his wife had ever heard Hawley. (They had him on speaker phone).

“Personally for me, him as my mentor and him as my friend to have that kind of reaction from him meant the world. It was exactly what I needed. He’s been the closest friend and confidant and mentor and motivator through the whole process so far and I’m looking forward to bending his ear throughout the process as I need help and counsel, maybe some motivation and even kind remarks every once in a while,” he said.

Sieloff said the opportunity to attend the conference is incredible.

“… I think it’s an incredible opportunity for our students to be showcased on a national level, to represent our school and our district proudly and I’m really, truly excited for our kids,” he said.

The group will sing seven pieces on March 5. They have been rehearsing every Monday night for two hours.

Cantus will perform seven pieces and the theme is “Life Through the Lens of a Young Man.”

They will start with two songs that are in praise of God and nature and man’s love of being outside.

The second set is titled affectionately “Euroflirt,” and they will “spend some time in Scotland; we’ll spend some time in Italy. And we’ll sing a couple of really cool foreign pieces and then we’ll finish with a set titled ‘Love, Loss and Unity,’ where we go through all of the emotions that a young man feels when they fall madly in love” and when they experience the loss of a loved one.

They will finish with “Glory,” a song from the movie “Selma,” which talks about coming together as one and victory, Sieloff said.

“It should be a powerful ending and I’m really excited for the guys to do … their thing on that song. I’m sure that it’s going to be a crowd pleaser and a strong statement, so I’m excited,” he added.

The Cantus this year are young, full of energy, laughter, talking and excitement, Sieloff said.

“… In certain ways, they’ve already started to step up in rehearsals and learn more quickly than maybe they would have in the past. They know that something big is coming. They know that there’s something important on the line, so they are really starting to step up,” Sieloff said.

Up until a recent Monday night, the students had been rehearsing in two separate groups, but that night they were all together.

CJ Lacy, Nate Weaver, Dalton Sawyer, Davis Clarke, Kyler Fife, Cooper Golden, Dylan Winchell all seemed to understand the gravity of the invitation.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity, a great thing to be in,” Sawyer said.

Fife said it’s a great honor to be selected for the conference.

“… We get to show what Permian choir is all about … Not a lot of people get to go … We get to show off our skills, what our men can do and how great we can sound and just blow them away,” Fife said.

Weaver said the members have an extra bond because of the conference preparation.

“We definitely feel closer,” Weaver said. “We get to spend a lot more time together as a group, working on music that means a lot to us and our directors, so there’s added time that we normally wouldn’t spend together in a normal year. But this year being such a big deal, we definitely have a lot more camaraderie than we would most years,” Weaver added.

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