Choirs earn gold in Orlando competition


Representatives from the Chamber, Women’s, and Concert Choirs pose as they accept their awards along with their directors, Carl Helder and Anna Lilikas. All three choirs were ranked in the gold division at the Worldstrides choral competition at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

by Patricia Whyte, Senior Staff Writer

In a small choir room at the back of a church in Florida, 52 students dressed in bright red robes all gathered around a small, wooden piano as they sang through their warm ups. With their performance in five minutes, they hold the final chord of their song. “Alright,” their director says. “Let’s go.”

Students from the Chamber, Women’s, and Concert Choirs competed in the Worldstrides Onstage Heritage Festival in Orlando, Florida on April 21 as part of the annual choir trip. All three choirs were ranked in the gold division and received first place in their divisions.

The choirs are under the direction of Carl Helder and Anna Lilikas. 52 students and eight chaperones left for Newark airport on Thursday, April 20 and returned Sunday, April 23. The competition took place at Universal Studios in Orlando .

The choirs competed with pieces from their winter concert. The Concert Choir was the largest group on the trip and performed a hebrew folk song entitled Ani Ma Amin in addition to Laudate Dominum by Mozart. The Chamber Choir sang two songs entitled Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit and My Heart’s In The Highlands. Finally, the Women’s Choir competed with contemporary piece entitled Velvet Shoes by Randall Thompson and Tum-Balalaika arranged by Maurice Gardner.

“The pieces show many different styles of choral music with different singing technique, tempo, dynamics, and various other demands,” Helder said.  The directors selected songs that were specifically written for the types of choirs that they brought to the event and showcased the greatest variation of skill and ability from the students.

The judges of the competition were noted choir directors and faculty from various universities and colleges across the country. They scored each choir on a scale of one to 100, and all three choirs directed by Helder and Lilikas received a score of 90 or above to be placed in the gold division. In total, there were 20 different choirs from nine different high schools entered in the competition.

“We got really great feedback from the judges, so I was extremely pleased with everyone,” Lilikas said.

Caitlin O’Brien (‘20) was awarded for her solo in Laudate Dominum by Mozart. She received the Maestro Award, which commemorates students for excellence shown in their vocal ability.

“I was really happy because I had been working on my solo a lot, even after the winter concert I would work on it up until the competition so it was still in my range and everything, and it was just really exciting to win that,” O’Brien said.

Additionally, the Women’s Choir received the Judge’s Pick Award, which was awarded to the judges’ favorite ensembles of the festival.

“Our choirs were very well received by the judges and adjudicators,” Helder said. “One of my favorite moments was having the judges comment that our relationship with our students is evident in our performance.”