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Amherst Regional singers tops in WGBY competition

“We had been practicing these pieces in our regular repertoire, but we actually put together this performance last Thursday,” said Anita Cooper, the ARHS music and performing arts teacher who directs the group.

The 27-member chorale was entered into the secular classical and gospel categories. The group’s performance included three pieces: “Fa Una Canzone” by Orazio Vecchi, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” a traditional arrangement by Nina Gilbert, and “Let Everything That Hath Breath” by Jeffrey L. Ames.

Cooper said that this was the first time the chorale entered WGBY’s competition, in which Channel 57 broadcasts the competing performances over a span of eight weeks in March and April. Viewers, via votes on the station’s website, and judges narrow the field, selecting the groups that will perform in the live show broadcast from Springfield’s Paramount Theater.

This year, nine choirs were selected for the live performance including the Hampshire Young People’s Chamber Singers, Kurn Hattin Homes Select Choir, Edward P. Boland Elementary School Chorus, the Deerfield Academy Chamber Singers, the Pioneer Valley Chordsmen, Mak’Hela: The Jewish Chorus of Western Massachusetts, The University of Massachusetts Chorale and the Longmeadow High School Lyrics.

Viewers were asked to text in their favorites during the live two-hour broadcast, said Myrna Flynn, marketing director at WGBY. “Amherst Regional High School received the most text votes,” she said.

Children’s categories in the competition were classical, folk/world and gospel while adult categories included barbershop, folk/world, gospel, pop/doo wop, sacred classical and secular classical. Kevin Rhodes of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, hosted the event and conducted a combined performance of a new piece titled “Together in Song” by local composer Clifton J. Noble.

Cooper said that the high school’s Chorale and Hurricane Singers, a 28-member women’s ensemble, also performed at the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductor’s Association (MICCA) State Choral Festival last month, winning a gold medal and superior rating. That competition took place at Algonquin Regional High School in Northboro.

“They did a beautiful job,” said Cooper. “They were well-prepared and focused. They just rose to the occasion and shined,” she said.

The chorale and Hurricane Singers will be performing musical selections from both competitions May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at South Congregational Church, 1066 South East St.

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