Singers set to perform Carnegie Hall

Jen Balao

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Originally Published March 15, 2006

The large recital hall that the Northridge Singers congregate in is more like a small auditorium. Before their practice begins, the sound that fills the room is the normal pre-class chatter of students discussing how their weekends went and how their week is going.

When rehearsal finally begins, the students lull their general conversations, and what replaces the murmur of casual banter, is a beautiful symphony of voices in perfect unison.

They begin just by harmonizing to warm up their voices, but even then it is as if they are an angelic orchestra. Their sound fills the entire room and pushes upward against the high ceiling.

This ensemble of CSUN students and graduate students already seem prepared for their performance at Carnegie Hall in New York on April 22.

Paul Smith, CSUN professor for 10 years and conductor of the Northridge Singers, was invited to be a guest conductor at the Mid America Productions concert at Carnegie Hall and chose to bring his students along.

“He could have gone and just conducted the performance without us, because they asked him to come specifically, but obviously he wanted to showcase the choir that is part of the reason why he got asked to go,” said Josh Elson, CSUN graduate student in music, member and also assistant director of the Northridge Singers.

The Northridge Singers is the advance choral ensemble at CSUN and represents the department in choral music performances on and off campus, having performed regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Sarah Jane Keith, a member of the ensemble and a senior music therapy major, said she has no doubt that Smith will have the group completely prepared for the concert in April, which should eliminate their nervousness.

During their usual Monday rehearsal, Smith displayed his talent and passion for music in his direction of the Northridge Singers. His acute ears noticed even slight imperfections, resulting in the choir having to rehearse certain words several times over until Smith thought it was well done.

“Not because I must have it right, but because music must have it right,” Smith told his students after asking them to practice singing just one word.

Elson said Smith is good at motivating people.

“He has a pretty good ability to assess people’s potential and then demand that of them,” said Elson.

“He’s one of? the few people that I’ve met in life that really command that kind of integrity from people.”

According to Keith, the group is as good as they are because of Smith’s high standards.

Along with the Northridge Singers, Smith will also be conducting the Calabasas High School Choir, the Agoura High School Concert Choir, from Agoura Hills, and the Dorsey High School TruDonion Choir, from Los Angeles.

The three high school choruses and the Northridge Singers will perform two pieces together as one large group.

Elson commented on the effect that approximately 120 voices can have and said, “(It’s) pretty remarkable.”

Marylin Payne, director of the Dorsey High School TruDonion Choir, said that she was excited that Smith recommended her choir to participate.

“Carnegie Hall is to performance (what) the Super Bowl is to football. It doesn’t get better than that,” Payne said.

The Northridge Singers will arrive in New York on April 19, perform on April 22, and return to Los Angeles on April 23.

The Northridge Singers are a symbol of the CSUN community in general, with members differing in age, background, and beliefs. Although this group is diverse, their harmonious voices are wonderful.

Jen Balao can be reached at ane@sundial.csun.edu