The lights in the auditorium dimmed and the crowd began to hush as all of the PAAS Vocal members came together for the first time to sing with one another on Friday, October 20th.
All eight schools in Prince George County had students come together to make music at the 1st Annual PAAS Vocal Music Festival.
“This has been boiling for about a year now,” high school choral director Storm Burks said. “I initially had the idea to do an all county PAAS Festival.”
PAAS is Prince George County’s program for artistically advanced students. The program is intended to challenge the members in their artistic abilities. This program includes students from three branches of art: theatre, vocal, and visual art. The students in this program can range from being in fourth to twelfth grade.
“The performance surprised me how well we did,” sophomore PAAS Vocal member Bridget Hanscom said. “I’m not used to seeing dedication like that from children and/ or high schoolers.”
These advanced pupils sang a selection chosen by the choral directors from their schools. These directors came up with a selection consisting of challenging and engaging music.
“We all pitched ideas and we formed a concert that we thought was going to be the best for the students we had…” Burks said.
Burks gave a special thanks to Willie Elliot on stage for being supportive of the idea since the start. In fact Elliot was given a speaking solo in the last song the choir performed, Give Us Hope [Jim Papoulis]. The other soloists included Nadia Artus, Jhalyne Blackwell, Amanda Harris, and Cierra Lundy.
Other songs performed were the Star Spangled Banner [Francis Scott Key/ John Stafford Smith, arranged by Walter Damrosch], a French folk song by the name of J’entend le Moulin [arranged by Ruth Dwyer/ Martin Ellis], True Colors [Billy Steinberg/ Tom Kelly, arranged by Roger Emerson], and the South African folk song Siyahamba from South African Suite [arranged by Henry Leck].
“We all brought songs to the table, and we pulled together a concert with everybody not just selecting one song,” Burks said.
A special thanks was also given to Janet Jarrett, the choral director at N.B. Clements, for serving as the accompanist.
Burks directed most of the performance, however he did step down to play the maracas for a song toward the end of the performance. During that song South Elementary School’s choral director Laura Serfass stepped in. David Dockan, the choral director at North Elementary, also played percussion for some songs.
“When all the kids arrived we worked almost the entire day for the concert,” Hanscom said. “We spent a good four hours working on it scattered up.”
These students practiced from 10 AM the morning of the 20th to an hour before the performance at 6:30 PM. This was the only time that they were able to come together and practice as a whole.
Despite only having one group practice before the performance, the whole choir came together and drew a large crowd of family and friends to the performance.
“I would say it exceeded my expectations,” Burks said. “I knew it would be a fine event, but i was not expecting the mature sound that we got out of all the students.”