District News

Performing on the world stage: Little Miami Chorale

Posted on: September 15, 2016

There are high school choirs, and there is Little Miami.

Under the direction of Sarah Baker, the Little Miami vocal music program has built such a reputation for excellence that both Baker and her singers are sought-after performers, not just locally, but on the world stage as well.

Even before the Little Miami Select Women’s Chorale silver medal-winning performance at the World Choir Games in Cincinnati in 2012, word had spread about the exceptional talent that Baker and her singers possessed.

That is why Little Miami vocalists have found themselves in far-flung places like Riga, Latvia, in 2014 and in Rome this past summer, singing in the Musica Eterna Roma international choir competition, and filling some of the world's most renowned spaces — like St. Peter's Basilica — with song.

Baker, in her 15th year as a Little Miami educator, has worked tirelessly to create an internationally-respected program, and said she is thrilled for the learning opportunities that come with performing around the globe.

"Every event is for the choirs and is so rewarding – beyond the commercial fanfare, medals and trophies," Baker said. "[In Rome] we were able to attend and participate in concerts that included choirs from all over the world, which led to a certain camaraderie and pride within our own ensemble as well as with members of other ensembles.

"Serving as an audience member for the other choirs provided an eye-opening experience, hearing them, and ourselves, in some of the most beautiful spaces in the world."

For the Rome trip, a tour chorale was created to ensure that a strong contingent of the LM select women's chorale would represent the program and that numbers would be met for the international festivals. The Rome ensemble included 17 ladies ranging from ages 15-21:

  • Soprano I: Catie Cumings, Keegan Dwyer, Autumn Hughes, Sarah McIntosh, Rebecca Packard, Sydney Seymour
  • Soprano II: Bethany Brose, Taryn Richards, Allie Sisco
  • Alto I: Hannah Berardinis, Hannah Fox, Aislyn Scalese, Rachel Toney
  • Alto II: Amy Bertsch, Fallon Davis, Hadley Flener, Megan Packard.

Joyce Lawson was the accompanist for the ensemble, and John McClain from Logan, Ohio, was the tenor soloist featured in many community performances.

During the competition in Italy, hosted by Meeting Music International, the LM tour chorale earned gold ratings and two grand championships for the three divisions in which they competed (female choirs – gold/champion; musica sacra – gold; gospel/spiritual - gold/champion). The ladies also earned enough points to establish a place with the top choirs in the Grand Prix competition. Baker said the reaction of the international judges was something she will always remember.

“A few of these jurors, and others we met on our journey throughout Italy, Austria and Germany, could not speak English,” she said. “However, they could hold their hands to their hearts and look at me with a sense of gratitude that does not need the spoken word. Communicating with the heart is the most important concept I teach – and, it happens through singing.”

Prior to traveling to Rome, Baker had been invited by Meeting Music's founders to present a class on her practice of using synesthesia (the production of one sense relating to another – in this case, sound and color) to achieve balance and blend in the choral ensemble. This is something Baker has been implementing for many years in her classroom. The colored sash that each Little Miami singer wears during a concert? That is the "color" of the singer's voice to Baker's ear.

Following their award-winning performances, the chorale continued to perform everyday throughout the 10-day tour, giving concerts in cathedrals throughout Italy and Austria. And in those places, too, the chorale made an impression.

Baker said that the next international tour is being planned for the summer of 2018 and invitations have already arrived from Austria, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. While she is excited for her students to be asked to perform around the world, Baker said the connections they make when they do so are the most meaningful part of the trip.

“What is most important is how these experiences deepen the impact of music,” she said. “Our love and appreciation for what music can do – what it does for us everyday – extends far beyond what we do in preparing pieces and working everyday in the classroom. It changes lives and crosses borders.”

Take advantage of the chance to hear the chorale perform at their fall concert on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.